A Cheektowaga teacher has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the school district, saying her First Amendment rights were violated after officials asked her to remove religious items from her classroom. YNN's Meg Rossman has more on lawsuit and the district's reaction.
CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. — "We just felt that it was the right thing, the right thing to do," Cheektowaga Central Schools Superintendent Dennis Kane said.
But asking Joelle Silver to take down religious posters in her classroom has now prompted the high school science teacher to file a civil rights lawsuit.
"Essentially, the school district was forcing her to cleanse anything religious from her classroom, from her speech,” attorney Robert Muise said. “We're talking about personal, non-curriculum speech."
School officials say it all started last spring when a student notified the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Wisconsin, threatening to sue the district over four posters containing Bible verses hanging in the classroom.
That prompted officials to launch their own investigation.
"We really didn't know they were there,” Kane said. “Plus, upon legal review, legal counsel says they shouldn't be there."
The district then sent Silver an eight-page "counseling" letter, advising her of her First Amendment rights and detailing religious items in the classroom. Silver took them down – and then filed the suit with help of Muise and the American Freedom Law Center.
"When the government is imposing such draconian restrictions on a government employee, they run afoul of U.S. Constitution as in this case," he said.
Silver's attorney said she's not looking for monetary compensation, just an acknowledgment that the district violated her constitutional rights and the removal of the counseling letter from her file.
Kane tells YNN that Silver is still teaching in the district and the two have an amicable relationship.