PZ Myers of Pharyngula:
The ACLU is suing Union Public School Independent District No. 9 of Oklahoma. The reason is bizarre: administrators at the school have harrassed and violated the civil rights of a young woman named Brandi Blackbear because — and I'm a bit ashamed to admit this can go on in my country — they accused her of witchcraft. They say she used a magic spell to make one of her teachers sick. In retaliation, she has been subjected to searches and public humiliation, and the school has banned the wearing of non-Christian paraphernalia.From the ACLU site:
In its legal complaint filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, the ACLU said that school officials not only suspended Blackbear for 15 days in December 1999 for allegedly casting spells, but also violated her religious freedom when they told her that she could not wear or draw in school any symbols related to the Wicca religion.Truly a tradition to be proud of...
The ACLU lawsuit also accuses school officials of violating the young woman's due process rights when, in the spring of 1999, they suspended her for 19 days over the content of private writings taken from her book bag. Officials had searched her possessions based on a rumor that Blackbear was carrying a gun, although no weapon of any sort was ever found. To date, school officials have not returned Blackbear's writings to her.
Before these incidents, the ACLU complaint said, Brandi Blackbear had no discipline problems and had a perfect attendance record. Since being accused, she has "suffered continuous ridicule and humiliation," and "become an outcast among her fellow students," according to the complaint. She has also fallen behind in her school work because of the suspensions.
"It's hard for me to believe that in the year 2000 I am walking into court to defend my daughter against charges of witchcraft brought by her own school," said Timothy Blackbear. "But if that's what it takes to clear her record and get her life back to normal, that's what we'll do."
The ACLU is seeking an undisclosed amount of punitive and financial damages on the Blackbear family's behalf, a declaration that the school violated the student's rights, an injunction preventing the school from banning the wearing of any non-Christian religious paraphernalia and an order expunging her school record.
"The actions of the school have inflicted severe emotional damage on a very sensitive young woman. This lawsuit will allow her to reclaim some of her self-esteem by vindicating the violation of her rights in a court of law," said John M. Butler, an ACLU cooperating attorney.
The case is Blackbear v. Union Public School Independent District No. 9, et al. Defendants named in the lawsuit are Union Eighth Grade Center Principal Jack Ojala, Speech Therapist/Counselor Catherine Miller, Union High School Assistant Principal Charlie Bushyhead and Counselor Sandy Franklin.
crossposted at Rants from the Rookery