Religious Liberty issue image

Does v. School Board for Santa Rosa County, Florida

Location: Florida
Last Update: August 19, 2009

What's at Stake

In August 2008, the ACLU’S Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief and the ACLU of Florida filed suit on behalf of two students at Pace High School in the Santa Rosa County School District in Florida, charging that school district officials have used their governmental positions to promote their personal religious beliefs throughout district schools.

The lawsuit reveals school officials’ pervasive practice of endorsing particular religious beliefs throughout district schools by regularly leading or directing students in prayer at extracurricular and athletic events, arranging for prayer during graduation ceremonies, and proselytizing students during and outside of class. The Pace High School handbook even instructs teachers to “embrace every opportunity to inculcate, by precept and example, the practice of every Christian virtue.”

In December 2008, after months of pretrial discovery, the defendants, including the school board, the district superintendent, and Pace High Principal H. Frank Lay admitted liability for their unlawful practices and agreed that the court should enter a preliminary injunction pending a final consent order to be worked out by the parties. The preliminary injunction, entered in January 2009, barred school officials from “[p]romoting, advancing, aiding, facilitating, endorsing, or causing religious prayers or devotionals during school-sponsored events.”

In May 2009, the court entered a final consent decree, which was agreed to by both plaintiffs and defendants. The consent decree prohibits district officials from engaging in school-sponsored prayer, proselytizing students, or otherwise facilitating school-sponsored religious practices.

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