Louisiana public school sued over religious discrimination

Negreet High
A picture of Jesus hangs inside Negreet High School. US District Court Documents/ACLU

A picture of Jesus hangs inside Negreet High School. US District Court Documents/ACLU

A Sabine Parish school is coming under fire from the ACLU, who filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Buddhist student. The suit alleges that various administrators and staff at Negreet High School illegally promoted Christianity by blatantly proselytizing students, denying even the possibility of evolution, displaying Christian iconography and Bible verses, and telling the Buddhist student to change schools.

The lawsuit quotes parish Schools Superintendent Sara Ebarb as saying to the student, who is of Thai descent, that he could “change” his faith, or transfer to another school district, where “there are more Asians.”

The plaintiff’s stepfather, Scott Lane, wrote a heart-tugging blog post for the ACLU. The post details allegations of harassment from teachers, but it was this description of the indifferent and racially-charged response from the parish’s superintendent that was the most eye-catching:

We assumed that the Superintendent was not aware of all the unlawful activities at Negreet and would want to know about them so she could rectify the situation, but we could not have been more wrong. She was dismissive and told us that we live in the “Bible Belt” and that this is just how things are. She added that, because she was not offended by the fact that “the lady who cuts [her] toenails has a statue of Buddha,” we should not be upset by the blatant proselytizing at Negreet or the bullying and harassment of our son and the degradation of his Buddhist faith.

So far, the school board is remaining elusive as to whether the allegations are true. Their statement, from KSLA News 12: 

The Sabine Parish School Board has only recently been made aware of the lawsuit filed by the ACLU. A lawsuit only represents one side’s allegations, and the board is disappointed that the ACLU chose to file suit without even contacting it regarding the facts.

The school system recognizes the rights of all students to exercise the religion of their choice and will defend the lawsuit vigorously.

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