FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – A lawsuit filed by a Fort Wayne family against the Southwest Allen County Schools alleging violations of the First Amendment is dismissed.
The dismissal, according to SACS’ attorney Tuck Hopkins, was made after the district agreed to end the practices alleged in the suit.
The suit filed Thursday by Linda and John Buchanan alleges that a youth pastor has been allowed to regularly attend the student lunch times at Summit Middle School and has been “allowed to stand in a prominent location in the school lunchroom where he will engage children in discussion.”
Len Goldstein, with the Fort Wayne branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the allegations an “obvious infringement on the constitution.”
Court documents also allege that many of the children at Summit Middle recognize the pastor as a local religious leader. The Buchanans, represented by Ken Falk with the ACLU out of Indianapolis, say “this is coercive and represents an endorsement of religion and Linda and John Buchanan object to their daughter being exposed to it.”
That exposure, according to court documents, involves the minister passing out materials and speaking with students at various tables. Documents say he does this while wearing a visitors badge.
Court documents also say that once the Buchanans informed the school of their opposition to the practice, the school prohibited the minister from handing out material and walking through the lunch room. The complaint also says, however, that Buchanan witnessed the youth pastor engaging in conversations with the children.
William “Tuck” Hopkins, the district’s attorney, says he was informed by Falk that if the practice of having a minister on school grounds was stopped, the Buchanans would likely drop the suit. Hopkins said he informed Falk of the move by the district to end the practice on Friday.
“When I found out about this, I called him Friday morning and said, ‘Listen, we’ve stopped the practice. I’d be glad to confirm that to you in writing,’ and he said, ‘Well if you do that, we’ll look to dismiss the suit.’ So, within an hour, I had written confirmation to him that the practice was stopped and my last communication with him on Friday was that he thought his clients were OK with dismissal and that they’d be sending the documentation into the court this week.”
A call to Falk about possible dismissal of the case or any other update to the case was not returned.
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