After being embarrassed in the national media a North Carolina school system is retaliating against an atheist student that wanted to form a secular club at her high school.
New reports indicate an attorney for the school system threatened to draw attention to the criminal past of the student’s father and accused the student and her father of being part of a conspiracy to manufacture controversy around the club in a “desire for publicity and financial gain.”
Last week 15-year-old Kalei Wilson was forced to abandon her efforts to form a chapter of the Secular Student Alliance at her public high school after suffering threats and harassment. It now appears allegations made by an attorney representing the school was at least in part responsible for Kalei abandoning her efforts.
Religious News Service reports Pat Smathers, an attorney for the Haywood County Schools, which includes Pisgah High School, says he undertook an investigation of the matter and has several “concerns,” including the alleged criminal past of Cash Wilson, Kalei Wilson’s father. The following is an excerpt from a letter written by Smathers on behalf of school administrators and sent to the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the ACLU-NC:
“It is my opinion your allegations on behalf of Kalei Wilson and Ben Wilson are without merit and baseless,” Smathers’ letter states. “In my opinion, the allegations arise from a manufactured controversy caused by Mr. Wilson’s influence on his children and a desire for publicity and financial gain. Further, that your respective organizations either unwittingly or willingly have participated in the same.”
The Freedom from Religion Foundation said in a statement that it was standing by its original assessment, describing the school’s investigation as “retaliatory.”
“It is unfortunate that Haywood County School officials and Attorney Smathers seem to have retaliated against students for bringing forth valid complaints about their ability to form a secular club at their school,” the statement reads. “We are troubled by the report, which contains many factual errors and focuses on matters that are irrelevant to forming a student club. Persons or organizations who may have been defamed and/or retaliated against by the school system might need to consider legal recourse.”
Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist opines: “This just strikes me as a nasty, below-the-belt attack by the district in an effort to make this whole issue disappear.”