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Desert Sands Unified School District Sued Over Religious Bricks

In La Quinta, California, the Desert Sands Unified School District is being sued in federal court because the school will not include bricks bearing Bible verses in the sidewalk. The bricks were part of a fundraiser used to build the sidewalk. The Alliance Defense Fund is suing the school district on behalf of two people, Lou Ann Hart and Sheryl Caronna. The two claim that the school violated the First Amendment Rights of the individuals when the bricks were rejected based on religious merit.

palmdeserthigh.jpgThe attorney representing the Alliance Defense Fund believes that the government is signaling out religious viewpoints. He is quoted as saying, “Christians have the same First Amendment -protected rights as everyone else does on public school campuses and their messages are no less worthy of exposure than other individuals.”

The bricks were rejected, according to the lawsuit, by the district based on constitutional “separation of church and state.” The complaint also stated that neither woman received a refund. The Alliance Defense Fund wants the district to pay monetary damages to the women, and pay attorney fees, and to include the bricks in the sidewalk.

Resident of Palm Desert, Hart, purchased the bricks, which measured four by eight inches, and Caronna, from Rancho Mirage, purchased an eight by eight inch brick. The two purchased the bricks to provide a message of hope for students.

After the bricks were made, the women were notified by the school district that the bricks would not be displayed in the project. That was in August of 2010. The school district claims it is looking into the situation and believes the filing of the lawsuit was premature.

The case, Hart V. Tomack, was filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Tomack is a member of the school board.

If you are a California school administrator with a question about student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, or school employment law, feel free to call attorney Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district issue.