A Mississippi school district has decided to change a policy that kept a 3rd grader from wearing a face mask that said, "Jesus Loves Me."
The Simpson County School District in Mendenhall, Mississippi, agreed to a settlement after Alliance Defending Freedom lawyers filed a lawsuit on behalf of the elementary student, Lydia Booth, and her parents Matthew and Jennifer Booth.
The district said they would respect students' freedom of expression and religious views and allow Lydia to wear her mask.
"Public schools have no business discriminating against a 9-year-old for her religious expression," said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross. "Other students within the school district have freely worn masks with the logos of local sports teams or even the words' Black Lives Matter.' Lydia deserves and will now have an equal opportunity to peacefully express her beliefs."
In October 2020, the principal of Lydia's school told her to remove her mask and "replace it with a different one." Her parents reached out to the school district multiple times about the incident, saying the school's handbook did not have a policy forbidding religious expression.
Simpson County School District Superintendent Greg Pae responded to questions in a letter to the district, saying schools could not "discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, marital status or age in admission or access to, or treatment of employment in, its programs or activities."
Pae also noted, however, that "masks cannot display political, religious, sexual or any inappropriate symbols, gestures or statements that may be offensive, disruptive or deemed distractive to the school environment."
In November 2020, the ADF filed a lawsuit claiming the school policy was unconstitutional.
"No student should be singled out for peacefully expressing her religious beliefs," said ADF Center for Academic Freedom director and Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer. "Today's students will be tomorrow's legislators, judges, educators, and voters. That's why it's so important that public schools demonstrate the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students."
Photo courtesy: Engin Akyurt/Unsplash
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.