EXCLUSIVE: A North Carolina middle school student was suspended for three days over a conversation he had with classmates about Jesus Christ.
The 12-year-old is a seventh grader at Envision Science Academy in Wake Forest. He is also a devout Christian.
The young man’s father told me that he received a phone call from the assistant dean saying he needed to attend a meeting about his son’s “continued behavior.”
Several of the boy’s classmates had started a conversation during the previous school year about Christianity and his son had explained how they needed a relationship with Jesus Christ to go to Heaven.
“She told me that my son had violated Title IX,” the dad told me. “The two kids who had complained interjected themselves into the conversation and ridiculed my son about his faith and how stupid it was.”
The dad told me school’s dean that the other students had been taunting his son, but that did not seem to matter.
“She said they were going to suspend him for borderline harassment,” he told me. “They took the word of the other kids above my son’s word.”
It certainly appears that the other students set a trap for the Christian kid and he was suspended for three days.
“It’s sick and sad. Never seen anything like it,” the dad told me. “But I know the world we live. It’s pretty wicked at times.”
The family reached out to the American Center for Law and Justice for help.
“Once we heard about this situation of the student’s suspension, we took action,” said ACLJ’s Jordan Sekulow. “Immediately after this student’s parents contacted us, we wrote a legal demand letter to this school. We made very clear to the school its obligation under the First Amendment was to respect the right of this child to share his faith, rather than stifle his ability to communicate his beliefs with others. The school is barred by the First Amendment from treating his faith as “harassment.”
The Supreme Court has made clear that school officials may not censor student expression unless the speech “impinge[s] upon the rights of others” or creates a material and substantial disruption to the school’s ability to fulfill its educational goals, ACLJ reports.
Id. at511. An attempt by one student to share his Christian faith with another does not infringe on any other students’ rights; the Constitution protects our ability to freely share our beliefs with one another without fear of reprisal. The sharing of one’s religious beliefs with others is also not disruptive; it is part of the educational process for students to share their fundamental beliefs with one another.ACLJ
“We did not merely give this school a basic lesson in constitutional law,” Sekulow said. “We also made clear that we will be proceeding with further legal action against the school unless it immediately ends this student’s suspension, removes this from his academic record, and apologizes to him and his family immediately.”
This kind of behavior, especially toward vulnerable students, can never be tolerated, the famed attorney added.
“We will continue to hold this school, and any school that engages in similarly blatantly illegitimate behavior, accountable to the Constitution,” he said.