Judge Orders School District to Apologize to Agnostic Family

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By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter
March 20, 2012|5:36 pm

A judge has ordered officials from a Texas school district to officially apologize to an agnostic family that had sued the district over what they believed to be overtly religious activity at a high school.

United States District Judge Fred Biery issued an order on Monday that said Medina Valley Independent School District Superintendent James Stansberry and high school band director Keith Riley must formally apologize to the Schultz family.

The situation began in May of last year, when Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a suit against Medina Valley on behalf of the Schultz family who took issue with various religious activities at a high school Schultz's two sons attended. These included student-led prayers and other alleged promotions of Christianity.

Judge Biery ruled in favor of the Schultz family. But Texas Governor Rick Perry denounced the decision and State Attorney General Greg Abbot filed an appeal on behalf of Medina Valley.

About a day before the school district was to hold a high school graduation Biery's ruling was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and student-led prayers were allowed.

"We are not persuaded that plaintiffs have shown that they are substantially likely to prevail on the merits, particularly on the issue that the individual prayers or other remarks to be given by students at graduation are, in fact, school sponsored," wrote the appeals court.

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In protest, the Schultz family refused to attend.

The legal battles continued, however, with Medina Valley and the Schultz family reaching a settlement in February. The agreement stated that faculty and staff could not be involved in prayers or other promotions of Christianity, yet at the same they could wear religious jewelry and student remarks at graduation could include prayers.

According to local media, at various times during the months long court battles Stansberry and Riley made disparaging remarks against the Schultz family. Guillermo Contreras of San Antonio Express-News wrote that specific incidents included a televised interview in which Stansberry called the Schultz family's efforts a "witch hunt" and Riley commented on Facebook that the suit was made of "lies and false accusations."

In response to a query sent by CP, Biery's Courtroom Deputy Gloria Vela stated that the judge "does not give interviews and stands by his orders and opinions."

Medina Valley Independent School District declined to comment on the story, telling The Christian Post that they would like to move on and focus on upcoming exams.

 

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