Hurst v. Newman

Last modified 2011.09.15

  • Status Closed
  • Type Counsel
  • Court U.S. District Court
  • Issues Nontheist, Atheist, Humanist, Public Schools, Racial Equality, Religious Minorities, Teaching Religion in Public Schools

In January 2006, Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec, California, offered a month-long, elective “intersession” course called “Philosophy of Design.” The course description explained that students would “take a close look at evolution as a theory and . . . discuss the scientific, biological, and Biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin’s philosophy is not rock solid.” It also explained that the class would present evidence that the earth is “thousands of years old, not billions.” The course curriculum consisted principally of videos advocating young-earth creationism (the religious view that the earth was created by God in six days, as described in the Book of Genesis, about 6,000 years ago) or intelligent design.

On January 4—the second day of class—AU sent a letter to the Board and superintendent of the El Tejon Unified School District on behalf of a group of parents, asking that the class be canceled. When the District refused, AU filed suit on January 10 in federal district court against the board members, the District superintendent, the high-school principal, and the teacher.

We then offered to dismiss the parents’ claims, and waive our attorneys’ fees, if the School District would agree to end the class early and enter into a stipulated order, signed by the court, ensuring that the District would not offer any course in the future that endorses or promotes creationism, creation science, or intelligent design. The School District accepted that offer and agreed to conclude the course on January 27, rather than the scheduled date of February 3.

Thereafter, we learned from our clients that the School District had retained the term-paper requirement for the course, with a due date after the date on which the District had agreed to terminate the course. When we informed the School District’s attorney that the assignment violated the court order, the district canceled the assignment.

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