5th-grader initially banned from performing 'offensive' Christian song in talent show

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LOS ANGELES —The Los Angeles Unified School District has agreed to change a policy that initially prevented a 5th-grade student afflicted with cerebral palsy from performing to a Christian song as part of a talent show.

Superior Street Elementary School Principal Jerilyn Schubert told the student's mother in January that the song "We Shine" was "offensive." Schubert inaccurately claimed that it violated the so-called "separation of church and state" and then suggested to the mother that her child choose a song that "does not say 'Jesus' so many times."

Just hours after a lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of the student, the school district allowed the student to perform his song in the show. However, ADF continued to move forward with the lawsuit to make sure that the underlying unconstitutional district policy was changed.

"Christian students shouldn't be censored at public schools just because district officials consider religious speech to be offensive," said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. 

"The school district is doing the right thing by changing its policy to protect students' constitutionally protected rights so that censorship of religious speech no longer occurs during student activities."

The school district agreed in the settlement to revise its District Bulletin to read that "Student speakers at student assemblies and extracurricular activities such as sporting events or talent shows may not be selected on a basis that either favors or disfavors religious speech."

Prior to the lawsuit, officials approved the following songs for the show:  "Freak the Freak Out," focusing on relationship problems, "Shake It Up," with the theme of dancing and celebrating, and "Eye of the Tiger," with lyrics stating that "we kill with the skill to survive." Many parents, students, and community members attended the evening talent show, though student attendance was not required.

In light of the settlement, ADF attorneys filed a voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit following the policy change by the Los Angeles Unified School District.


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