Fayette school district settles lawsuit with Humanist group

The Fayette R-III School District has resolved the lawsuit brought against it by the American Humanist Association by agreeing to a very discrete factual matter. The District has agreed that the words, “Morning Devotional in Gwen Pope’s room,” which were spoken over the Fayette High School’s public address system before the school day began on May 3, 2013, made one former student and one current student believe that the District was endorsing religious activity.

Throughout the course of the lawsuit the plaintiffs had sought the educational records of every student who attended Fayette High School from 2008 to the present. The District objected to providing such information, and was joined in its objection by numerous former students and parents of current students of Fayette High School. Now that the matter has been resolved, the District can confirm that no educational records of current or former students were released in the course of this lawsuit. Only the names of students who were members of or attended the Fellowship of Christian Students meetings were disclosed.

“According to the American Humanist Association’s team of lawyers, the morning announcement should have been, ‘Fellowship of Christian Students is meeting in room 101,’” said District Superintendent Tamara Kimball. “After months of investigation and interviews the District determined that virtually every allegation made by the plaintiffs was false, misleading, or taken out-of-context. As a result, the District agreed that the one allegation we did confirm as accurate, the content of the morning announcement, would be a simple concession to make so that we could put this lawsuit behind us, and continue our mission of educating students.”

Kimball also noted, “While we do not agree that the words spoken before school were intended to endorse religious activity, we have agreed to modify our Student Handbook so that it is abundantly clear that the District does not impermissibly endorse religion. If only the parents of the students who felt offended would have brought this matter to the attention of District administrators early on, we could have addressed the content of the morning announcement in a pro-active, collaborative way and we could have made these few changes to the Student-Teacher Handbook without the need for a federal lawsuit”.

The District settled the lawsuit for $41,000. When asked about the attorney’s fees that were paid to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Kimball noted, “We are not happy with the amount of attorney’s fees that were paid, but the District’s insurer would have spent nearly twice that amount, if not more, to prevail through the court system. More importantly, the District would prefer to put this matter behind us and spend our time and resources on providing a quality education to our students.”

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