A star student is suing her former high school over discrimination she faced for being an atheist and standing up against unconstitutional proselytizing by school officials. Just a few examples of discrimination and religious coercion Cidney Fisk claims to have experienced include:
- “Teachers at the school openly discussed their Christian faith and church attendance “during classes.”
- A middle school teacher sponsored bible study classes before the start of the day, “enticing students with donuts” to attend sessions. (The Freedom From Religion Foundation later put a stop to that.)
- When Fisk spoke out against a proposed “personhood” amendment that would have treated fetuses as humans, making abortions more difficult to obtain, one of her teachers reprimanded her publicly for wearing a shirt urging people to vote “No.” He added, “God gives babies life and abortion is murder.”
- That same teacher, along with Fisk’s guidance counselor, had a private meeting with her months later where they criticized her “attitude.” They showed her a picture she had posted on a private Instagram account in which she said she wasn’t a fan of the school. The counselor added that if Fisk’s attitude didn’t change, she “would hate to ruin her position in student government” and “ruin her grant opportunities.” The counselor also threatened to revoke letters of recommendation for college.
- When Fisk tried to begin a Secular Student Alliance group, but had trouble finding a faculty sponsor, her government teacher told her the club “did not line up with community and School values.”
- When the District invited a Christian abstinence-only speaker, Shelly Donahue, to give a talk, Fisk alerted her school’s administrators ahead of time of Donahue’s faith-based, evidence-free reputation. She was told the speeches — one to male students, the other to females — would not be religious, that if it was religious it wouldn’t hurt anybody, and she should basically get over it. After the presentations were made — full of religion, as expected — Fisk wrote an article for the school paper criticizing what Donahue said.
- Another religious speaker, Chad Williams, was invited to speak to students in March of Fisk’s senior year. While Williams had written a memoir about his time as a soldier and why Jesus was great, he was invited to speak about the problems of drug use, a topic he had no qualifications for. Fisk asked him about his lack of qualifications in class… and was then reprimanded by her teacher.
- At this time, the Bible distribution story hit the local press and Fisk was publicly identified as an atheist. Students made death threats against Fisk on Facebook pages. When she and her parents told the District about this, they did “nothing at all in response.””
No student should be discriminated against because of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. Read more about Cidney’s case at the Friendly Atheist blog.