Maryland Home Schoolers Want Access to Community Center

by Rusty Pugh

(AgapePress) – A home-school mother in Maryland headed to court this week to do battle with county officials. Those officials are denying her children access to a community center, and her lawyer calls that discrimination.

Lydia Goulart pulled her children from Calvert County, Maryland, public schools and began home schooling them. Needing more space to start a geography club with other home-schooled children, she turned to a local community center. That is when county officials informed her that she gave up her right to use the community center when she opted out of the public schools.

Home School Legal Defense Association attorney Scott Sommerville says the county is illegally discriminating against anyone who chooses not to use the public schools.

“Any citizen of Calvert County, Maryland, is free to use the community center for just about any non-profit purpose, with one exception — private educators may not use those community centers for educational purposes,” Sommerville says. “Anybody can use them for education as long as it's government-sanctioned, public school education.”

Sommerville says this is another example of public school systems reacting to alternative forms of education.

“As home schooling is increasing, the public school officials are getting increasingly threatened,” he says. “They're seeing a real alternative here, and they're resorting to more and more extreme ways to try to keep competition out.”

Nationwide, at least 1.5 million children are taught at home, triple the number just a decade ago. The Goulart case went to court on Tuesday.

(This update courtesy of Agape Press.)

Michigan High School Sued for Stopping Distribution of Christian Literature

by Allie Martin and Jody Brown

(AgapePress) – Two Michigan high school students have filed a lawsuit against their school after they were told they could not distribute Christian literature on campus.

Valerie Snyder and Daniel Duefrene wanted to hand out Campus Crusade for Christ “Student Survival Kits” to their classmates at Houghton High School in Houghton, Michigan. On November 21, 2000, the pair arrived at school and began handing out the kits. As they were distributing the kits, Principal Kathryn Simila and Assistant Principal Kenneth Klein ordered them to stop, citing a school policy which prohibits student distribution of religious material at any time on the campus.

Joel Oster is an attorney for the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, which is suing the Houghton-Portage Township School District and Principal Simila on behalf of the two students. He says the school's policy prohibiting the distribution of any religious material is unconstitutional.

“These kids have just as much right to distribute religious literature as you would to distribute secular literature,” Oster says. “[For example] if I brought a music CD of Brittany Spears to school and I wanted to give it to my friend, and I can do that, then I can also bring a Christian CD with Amy Grant and give it to my friend.”

According to a news release from Liberty Counsel, the district policy states: “The distribution of any religious materials, bound or unbound, is prohibited on school grounds or in any attendance facility before, during, or after the school day or a school activity. Religious materials as distributed herein may be described as, but not limited to the following: any version of the Bible (including the Gideon Bible), translations of the Septuagint and the Apocrypha, Torah, Koran or any other similar religious books of faith, pamphlets, sectarian or denomination books, tracts, papers or other such materials including pictures, symbols, crosses, statues or icon.”

Oster says students do not give up their constitutional rights once they step onto school grounds, and that officials at many schools do not have a firm understanding of the Constitution.

“I have not seen a policy as blatantly unconstitutional as this policy … so we are extremely confident that the end result of this case will be [that] they will change their policy on the distribution of literature,” he says.

Erik Stanley, litigation counsel for Liberty Counsel, describes the unconstitutionality of the policy as “absolutely staggering” and calls it a “blatant violation of students' rights [that] should not go unchecked.”

“Public schools are not totalitarian regimes where only acceptable statements are allowed,” Stanley states in the Liberty news release. “The First Amendment protect students' rights to distribute religious literature on public school campuses during non-instructional time.”

The survival kits contain a Bible, a Christian music CD, an audio tape containing testimonies of various athletes, a keychain, a notepad, and a book.

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