Friday, January 30, 2009

How truly American.

The public humiliation and hanging of witches.


PZ Myers of Pharyngula
The ACLU is suing Union Public School Independent District No. 9 of Oklahoma. The reason is bizarre: administrators at the school have harrassed and violated the civil rights of a young woman named Brandi Blackbear because — and I'm a bit ashamed to admit this can go on in my country — they accused her of witchcraft. They say she used a magic spell to make one of her teachers sick. In retaliation, she has been subjected to searches and public humiliation, and the school has banned the wearing of non-Christian paraphernalia.
From the ACLU site:
In its legal complaint filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, the ACLU said that school officials not only suspended Blackbear for 15 days in December 1999 for allegedly casting spells, but also violated her religious freedom when they told her that she could not wear or draw in school any symbols related to the Wicca religion.

The ACLU lawsuit also accuses school officials of violating the young woman's due process rights when, in the spring of 1999, they suspended her for 19 days over the content of private writings taken from her book bag. Officials had searched her possessions based on a rumor that Blackbear was carrying a gun, although no weapon of any sort was ever found. To date, school officials have not returned Blackbear's writings to her.

Before these incidents, the ACLU complaint said, Brandi Blackbear had no discipline problems and had a perfect attendance record. Since being accused, she has "suffered continuous ridicule and humiliation," and "become an outcast among her fellow students," according to the complaint. She has also fallen behind in her school work because of the suspensions.

"It's hard for me to believe that in the year 2000 I am walking into court to defend my daughter against charges of witchcraft brought by her own school," said Timothy Blackbear. "But if that's what it takes to clear her record and get her life back to normal, that's what we'll do."

The ACLU is seeking an undisclosed amount of punitive and financial damages on the Blackbear family's behalf, a declaration that the school violated the student's rights, an injunction preventing the school from banning the wearing of any non-Christian religious paraphernalia and an order expunging her school record.

"The actions of the school have inflicted severe emotional damage on a very sensitive young woman. This lawsuit will allow her to reclaim some of her self-esteem by vindicating the violation of her rights in a court of law," said John M. Butler, an ACLU cooperating attorney.

The case is Blackbear v. Union Public School Independent District No. 9, et al. Defendants named in the lawsuit are Union Eighth Grade Center Principal Jack Ojala, Speech Therapist/Counselor Catherine Miller, Union High School Assistant Principal Charlie Bushyhead and Counselor Sandy Franklin.
Truly a tradition to be proud of...

crossposted at SteveAudio


Steve Bates said...

Let's see, now... the kid is accused of casting a spell witch, um, I mean, which actually succeeded in making her teacher sick. No doubt there are also kids who have prayed Christian prayers that their teachers would get sick on the day of an exam; I wonder what their success rate is? Hey, kids... let's play General Boykin's "Whose God is Stronger?" game! On its face, this should be an easy win for the girl, but one never knows.

In any case, now I have an urge to go to that sandwich shop I've been meaning to try. It's called Which Wich...

ellroon said...

I hadn't thought of that... the student could hex a Christian teacher who was helpless when confronting her evilness... Where was Jesus? Where was God? Paganism is clearly stronger.

What century are we living in again?

Matthew Saroff said...

Well, this one is from the last century, look at the date of the press release.

ellroon said...

Thanks, Matthew. I didn't catch that. The case was resolved in 2002 if that counts... in favor of the school.

Blackbear couldn't prove that she was harassed for religious reasons:
In US District Court in Tulsa, Oklahoma on 7/17/2002 Judge Claire Eagan ruled in favor of Tulsa Union Public Schools and issued a summary judgment in favor of the school district. This ruling was handed down just days before the trial was schedule to start.

The Tulsa World reported on the outcome of the case in a report dated 7/19/02 and titled "Judge rules in favor of district". That report quoted Judge Eagan's order as indicating:

Blackbear testified during a deposition that she is not, has never been and has never wanted to be a Wiccan.

Blackbear also admitted that the defendants have not done anything to keep her from practicing any religion.

In view of this testimony, the court finds that Brandi does not hold a sincere belief in the religion of Wicca.

Blackbear has admitted that religion played no role in the decision to discipline her in December 1999.

The referenced report went on to quote Blackbear's attorney John M. Butler as stating:

The order may not be "exactly correct" on those points and said his client's purported statements may have been "taken out of context."

The report went on to quote Mr. Butler as indicating an appeal is probable and that he is optimistic that Blackbear will prevail at that level.