Religious event no longer pushed by Ore. school (June/July 2024)

FFRF reminded the West Linn-Wilsonville (Ore.) School District of its obligation not to promote religious events in official event calendars and communications.

In July 2022, FFRF wrote to West Linn-Wilsonville School District regarding concerns with West Linn High School organizing and promoting a religious baccalaureate ceremony. In response to FFRF’s letter, the district noted that it needed to “be clear and careful about who is responsible for advertising the event and who is sponsoring it. Or, if it was sponsored by our own staff.” The district had additionally “engaged [its] legal counsel to provide advice and will ensure corrective action for the future.”

But, FFRF was informed by a West Linn High School parent that despite the district’s action in 2022, the school was once again advertising a baccalaureate in its official newsletter and through official communication channels. The newsletter urged parents to “save the date for the Baccalaureate on Sunday, June 2nd at 7pm!” The baccalaureate was also listed on the school’s list of “upcoming important dates,” and appeared to be a school-sponsored event with no indication about who was responsible for advertising the event or who was sponsoring it.

FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to Superintendent Kathy Ludwig. Andrew Kilstrom, director of communications for the school, then responded to FFRF via email. “The staff member who included the information for a similar event this school year (2023-24) is new to our district this year, and was unfamiliar with the process for vetting what is and isn’t included in the school newsletter. The staff member had been approached by a local community member and asked to include information about the ceremony, and not knowing what a baccalaureate ceremony was, assumed it was OK to include.”

After the administration learned of the event’s inclusion in the newsletter, it was immediately removed. Staff members were additionally reminded of what events are not OK to include in school calendars, including baccalaureate ceremonies.

Freedom From Religion Foundation