Ed Brayton gives you the backstory about what’s happening in the Albemarle School District in Virginia:
… Most schools have a system for sending home flyers to parents informing them of school events. Most schools also allow outside groups, like the Scouts or the YMCA, use that system to get the word out about summer camps and the like.
In 2001, a Christian group tried to use a school’s system to inform parents of one of their events and they were refused. They filed suit and the 4th Circuit ruled in their favor, saying that if a school is going to allow some community groups to use that system, they cannot engage in viewpoint discrimination in choosing which groups to allow in. This was not unexpected; it fits with a long line of rulings on limited public fora that say, in essence, “allow one, allow all.”
So everyone involved should have been happy, right?
They weren’t when they learned other groups were going to take advantage of this ruling.
The uproar began last winter when a flyer urging students to go to a “Pagan ritual” was distributed.
“Do I have to send this out?” Diane Behrens says she asked the county attorney. Behrens, who decides what can go home in backpack mail, says she was advised that unless county policy limits distribution to local events, the schools had to send it home.
Not everyone passed out the brochure, though:
The teachers’ representative told [World Net Daily] several teachers simply didn’t hand out the latest promotion, and of course now fear retaliation if their supervisors find out.
“They do put a disclaimer there, that the school doesn’t support it,” the [anonymous teachers’] representative said. “But we are expected to send this stuff home in childrens’ backpacks. It’s still coming from me and my classroom.”
“I took a stand and did not send it home,” the representative said. “Other teachers did the same thing.”
And the teachers who suppressed the brochure are clearly wrong. Mat Staver, the Christian Liberty Counsel founder, agrees. “He sees it as a freedom of speech issue: parents are free to read the fliers– or throw them away.”
Camp Quest’s president feels she might as well use the ruling as a way to get word about the camp to the public:
Amanda Metskas, president of the Camp Quest board, defends spreading the word about the Ohio and Michigan camps because children can fly there directly from Charlottesville.
“I don’t know if public schools should be sending home fliers for outside organizations,” says Metskas. “But if they can, it makes sense for us to take advantage of that opportunity. We have a small budget for promotion.”
School officials are finally going to meet over this issue. Behrens said that the policy would be revisited today.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has a good posting on this issue as well.
[tags]atheist, atheism, Ed Brayton, Albemarle School District, Virginia, Boy Scouts, YMCA, Christian, Pagan, Camp Quest, Diane Behrens, Mat Staver, Christian Liberty Counsel, Amanda Metskas, Ohio, Michigan, Charlottesville, Americans United for Separation of Church and State[/tags]