Seven families involved in religion lawsuit

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Seven families are now involved in a religious lawsuit against Bossier Schools. The families have asked the court to keep their identities anonymous during future legal proceedings, citing fear of harassment and violent threats on social media toward them or their children.

The request was made in a court document filed March 1. The motion to remain anonymous is not opposed by the defendants, the Bossier Parish School Board or Superintendent Scott Smith, according to the court document.

A lawsuit filed last month by Americans United for Separation of Church and State in U.S. District Court alleges widespread use of prayer on school property and during school events, in classrooms at all levels, at sporting events, at graduation ceremonies, during awards assemblies and at student government meetings. It also alleges that school officials openly proselytize students in Christianity.

The lawsuit was filed Feb. 7 on behalf of four parents. Three joined after the initial filing. Each plaintiff is the parent of at least one child who has attended a Bossier Parish school since at least 2015.

The court filing requesting continued anonymity for the plaintiffs says lawsuits such as theirs “often lead to powerful emotional reactions and backlash in the affected community.” Parents who speak up or sue often become “victims of harassment, social ostracism, economic injury, and even physical violence,” it says. “Plaintiffs have strong reason to fear that they and their families, including their minor children — whose identities would inevitably be revealed if Plaintiffs’ identities were revealed — will suffer grave harms if they are not allowed to proceed using pseudonyms,” the plain-tiffs’ request asserts.

The Bossier Parish School Board said in a statement that it would change policies and train all administrators, teachers and coaches in response to the lawsuit.

“The Board is in the process of updating and supplementing its policies to ensure full legal compliance across the school district and is scheduling mandatory in-service training for all administrators, teachers and coaches on the policies and underlying laws,” the statement reads. “We trust these affirmative steps will resolve the current federal court matter in short order so that precious taxpayer funds can be spent on continuing to improve the quality of educational services provided to students rather than on potentially expensive litigation.”

Because this matter is in litigation, there will be no further comment on behalf of Bossier Schools, according to Sonja Bailes, Public Relations Liaison.

By Amanda Simmons