VICTORY! On Jan. 22, 2019, Americans United reached a settlement agreement with the Bossier Parish School Board that protects all students regardless of their religious beliefs. Read more here.
This historic settlement is a victory for all Bossier families, and will ensure that children feel welcome and included in their own schools, regardless of what religion they do or don’t practice at home. Bossier Parish allowed religious coercion to proliferate throughout their schools – that system will no longer exist and rigorous protections that are enforceable by law have been put in place for all students.
~ Rachel Laser, president & CEO of Americans United
Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed Does v. Bossier Parish School Board on Feb. 7, 2018, to ensure that families – not Bossier Parish school officials – decide how children learn about faith.
Public school students in Northwest Louisiana’s Bossier Parish experienced blatant, widespread violations of their religious freedom on a regular basis. Despite Bossier’s diverse community that includes Barksdale Air Force Base, many of the district’s school board members, administrators, teachers and coaches unconstitutionally promoted Christianity to the district’s 23,000 students.
Many school events opened with a prayer, and many of these events were held in churches. Joining school athletic programs often meant more prayers – some led by coaches or pastors – plus coaches quoting Bible verses, distributing religious literature and urging student-athletes to go to church. Classroom teachers taught creationism and required students to recite prayers. Teachers and coaches also promoted religious student clubs and off-campus religious events. Religious items were displayed in classrooms and offices.
AU contacted the district several times in 2017 on behalf of community members concerned about the broad range of religious freedom violations at Bossier schools, but district officials either refused to end the unconstitutional practices or simply did not respond to AU's letters.
In the face of the district’s refusal to offer a learning environment that is inclusive and welcoming to students of all faiths and no faith, Americans United filed a federal lawsuit on Feb. 7, 2018, in the U.S. District Court in Shreveport, La. Does v. Bossier Parish School Board represents parents whose children attend Bossier schools and who believe that it is their right and responsibility, not the school district’s, to oversee their children’s religious education. The parents are remaining anonymous to prevent further ostracism of their children.
What's at stake:
Parents of all backgrounds should be able to put their trust in public schools to teach children the essentials like reading, math and science while letting families make their own decisions about faith.
Families and students in Bossier Parish Schools practice a variety of religions and faiths. It’s important that we respect and protect all of their rights.
Bossier teachers, coaches and administrators were putting students who weren’t participating in these religious activities in an uncomfortable position – making them targets for bullying and causing them to question their families’ beliefs.
Jan. 22, 2019: AU announced a settlement agreement was reached with Bossier Parish School Board. Read our statement here.
Feb. 7, 2018: AU filed Does v. Bossier Parish School Board in U.S. District Court in Shreveport, La., on behalf of seven parents whose children attend Bossier schools. Read our statement here and a blog post here.
Nov. 8, 2017: On behalf of concerned community members, AU sent a letter to officials at Bossier Parish Schools, asking them to address a broad array of religious freedom violations. Read our statement here.
Sept. 1, 2017: After nearly three months of receiving no response from officials at Bossier Parish Schools, AU again sent a letter requesting an end to the prayer practice at Benton High School graduation ceremonies. The district refused.
June 8, 2017: On behalf of a concerned community member, AU sent a letter to officials at Bossier Parish Schools, asking them to end the practice of having students deliver prayers at Bossier’s Benton High School graduation ceremonies.