Lawsuit filed after pupil realized she couldn’t put on a masks
The third grader’s family in Mississippi is suing the school after being told they cannot wear a Jesus Loves Me mask.
A disagreement over third grader Lydia Booth’s mask has led to a federal lawsuit. Officials from Simpson Central School, Mississippi, questioned Booth’s coverage of the message “Jesus loves me” and told her she could not wear it.
“Her headmaster got her to take the mask off and wear another one,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyers when they filed the lawsuit on behalf of the family.
“Public schools are required to respect the students’ freedom of expression, which guarantees them the first change,” said Michael Ross, ADF legal advisor. “While school administrators face the challenge of helping students cope with school life during a pandemic, these officials simply cannot suspend the first change or arbitrarily choose the messages that students can or cannot express. Other students in the school district have freely worn masks with the logos of local sports teams or even the words “Black Lives Matter”. This student deserves the same chance to peacefully express her beliefs. “
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Two days after the incident, school principal Greg Paes issued a statement regarding the wearing of masks, some of which read: “Masks must not contain any political, religious, sexual, or inappropriate symbol, gesture, or statement that could be considered offensive, disruptive, or offensive distracting to the school environment … This expectation was set out in our restart plan and applies to masks only. The headmaster and the superintendent are the ultimate authority on the appropriateness of a mask worn in school. We recommend wearing school colors, the school mascot, or just a blank mask. “
The lawsuit alleges the school district is violating Booth’s first right to amend freedom of expression.
The girl’s mother, Jennifer Booth, said the school manual did not contain a policy restricting religious expression. Instead, she said it also includes idioms designed to protect freedom of expression with guidelines under the Mississippi Student Religious Freedom Act. When Booth introduced this, a school official allegedly gave her a modified copy that included coronavirus criteria and a new rule prohibiting religious or political expression on masks.
Plaintiffs are asking the court to stop enforcing the policy, claiming Booth wants to wear her “Jesus Loves Me” mask to school, but “is censoring her facial expressions because her school has already enforced the policy and promises to continue enforcing it which could subject them to escalating discipline and even suspension. “
A similar lawsuit was filed against Whataburger last month after former employee Ma’Kiya Congious, 19, alleged she lost her job after wearing a Black Lives Matter mask to work.
“It’s not a political thing,” said Congious of her mask. “It’s just a statement that says ‘Black Lives Matter’ because we matter.”
The company had responded, “If we allow slogans that are not from Whataburger as part of our uniforms, we must allow all slogans. This can lead to tension and conflict between our employees and our customers. It is our job as a responsible brand to proactively protect our employees and customers. “
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