The Freedom From Religion Foundation has settled a lawsuit with Emanuel County School District in Swainsboro, Ga., after stopping teacher-led prayer and proselytization in its public schools.
After a concerned family encountering teacher-led prayer in kindergarten and first grade classrooms contacted the national state/church watchdog, FFRF sent a letter in August 2014 to the school district.
No changes were made to halt the illegal activity. Teachers continued to inflict prayer upon elementary school students as part of the school day, resulting in bullying and ostracism of students "Jesse and Jamie Doe." This February, FFRF filed suit on behalf of the family, seeking corrective action from the district and financial compensation for the harm suffered by the family.
Today, after reaching an agreement with the school district, FFRF is dismissing its lawsuit. Emanuel teachers have received educational training on their obligations not to promote religious beliefs in their classrooms and the Doe family has been financially compensated for harm they suffered.
The complaint alleged that teasing classmates and pressure to pray from teachers led Jamie to drop out of kindergarten, while teachers told Jesse, a first grader, to start praying and not to listen to Jesse's mother, whom one teacher described as a "bad person."
"We're pleased that the Emanuel County Schools has taken action to correct the egregious constitutional violations that were taking place in its classrooms," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "No devotions and religious practices should take place in public schools, and no small child should ever be pressured to take part in such illegal practices. More than 50 years of clear Supreme Court precedent bar such coercive conduct, because religion in schools is divisive and builds walls between children."
FFRF, with 23,000 nonreligious members nationwide, has 425 members in Georgia, and acts on complaints from members of the public who encounter violations of the constitutional principle of separation between religion and government. FFRF warmly thanks the family for coming forward and being part of the litigation.
FFRF was represented by litigation attorney Wally Nichols of W.R. Nichols & Associates. FFRF staff attorneys Sam Grover and Andrew Seidel also worked to build the case against the school district.
"This is a significant legal victory," noted Grover. "Educators in Georgia, where we receive many complaints about religion in schools, and throughout the country need to know that their duty is to educate students, not fill their heads with religious propaganda. FFRF is committed to defending the rights of students when public school employees overstep their authority and violate the separation of state and church."