School learns real meaning of the First Amendment (June/July 2024)

The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union was taught a lesson about religious liberty after an elementary school assistant principal hosted a religious assembly about the “real meaning of Easter.”

A concerned Bennington Elementary School parent contacted FFRF to report that on April 7, 2023, the assistant principal led a school-wide Zoom assembly in which he preached about the “real meaning of Easter” and showed an animated video depicting the biblical story of Jesus and the crucifixion. Parents were reportedly not informed of the assembly, nor were they given the opportunity to opt their students out of it in accordance with school policy.

“[The assistant principal]’s religious message demonstrates an unlawful preference for religion over non-religion and, specifically, Christianity over all other faiths,” FFRF Equal Justice Works Fellow Kat Grant wrote to Superintendent James Culkeen.

Dina L. Atwood, legal representation from the district, emailed FFRF and explained the outcome of the complaint. “The SVSU and particularly the Southwest Vermont Elementary Union School District Board (the board which directly employs the assistant principal), had discussions regarding how best to address this matter. There was administrative action taken which can include professional development as well as disciplinary action,” Atwood wrote. Atwood also explained that the board understood the severity of the issue, and took action quickly to resolve the issue.

Freedom From Religion Foundation