The entire school system in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, was rife with violations of students’ rights not to have religion forced on them, such as official prayer at school events, mandatory school events held in churches, official prayer to open school-board meetings, faculty harassment of minority-religion and nontheist students, forced memorization of prayer in class, and proselytization and encouragement of religious practice through school athletic programs.
Americans United sent several letters to Bossier Parish schools about various violations but never received an adequate response.
And so, in February 2018, Americans United filed suit on behalf of four parents, who used pseudonyms so that their children would not be bullied. We then received information from several other people, both parents and teachers, about further violations, and three additional parents joined the suit.
The school district filed its initial answer in March 2018, admitting about half of the allegations that we made in our complaint. We met with the Bossier Parish School Board in September 2018, for a settlement conference. Though it appeared that the meeting could have been the first step in productive negotiations, the School Board then publicly backed away from settling, preferring instead to litigate the dispute. Discovery began in October 2018, and trial was tentatively set for April 2019.
In February 2019, while we were in Louisiana to depose witnesses, the School Board re-entered settlement negotiations. We reached a settlement, and in March 2019 the trial court issued an order implementing the settlement. In addition to prohibiting the school district’s many unconstitutional practices, the settlement also requires special training for teachers, more effective reporting procedures for future complaints, and a monitoring committee to ensure ongoing compliance.