Lane v. Sabine Parish School Board

A sixth-grade teacher's advocacy of creationism is at the center of the complaint in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on January 22, 2014. {C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C} The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana on behalf of Scott Lane, Sharon Lane, and their three children, including their son, C. C., a Buddhist of Thai heritage. Documents from the case, Lane et al. v. Sabine Parish School Board et al., are available from the ACLU's website.

According to the complaint (PDF), C. C.'s former sixth-grade teacher "treats the Bible as scientific fact, telling students that the Big Bang never happened and that evolution is a 'stupid' theory that 'stupid people made up because they don t want to believe in God.' She tells her students that "if evolution were real, it would still be happening: Apes would still be turning into humans today." She "repeatedly instructed students that evolution is not valid as a scientific theory and that God made the world 6,000 years ago." She skipped the chapter on evolution in the science textbook. In addition, she includes religious material on her science tests. On one examination, students were expected to fill in the blank in the sentence "ISN'T IT AMAZING WHAT THE __________ MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" C. C. was penalized for not supplying the word "LORD." The teacher similarly grants extra credit for writing "Isn't it amazing what the Lord has made" on assignments and examinations.

Although C. C.'s parents complained of his teacher's misbehavior, the superintendent was not responsive, telling them that "this is the Bible Belt" and suggesting that C. C. change his religion. The complaint cites the teacher's behavior, the superintendent's response, and a pattern of "official promotion and inculcation of religion generally, and Christianity, specifically" on the part of the district in asking for a judgment against the district. A complaint was also filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

According to the Associated Press (January 23, 2014), the school board issued a statement reading, "The Sabine Parish School Board has only recently been made aware of the lawsuit filed by the ACLU. A lawsuit only represents one side's allegations, and the board is disappointed that the ACLU chose to file suit without even contacting it regarding the facts. The school system recognizes the rights of all students to exercise the religion of their choice and will defend the lawsuit vigorously."

In March 2014, the parties met in a settlement conference and worked out an agreement that enjoined the school board and its employees from religious practices and promotions both on school district properties and when acting in official capacities. The school district agreed to pay damages of $1 to each member of the Lane family, pay them $4,000 to cover miscellaneous transportation costs to have their son attend a school some distance away, and to daily bus their son to that school.

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