Jordan Palmer of the Kentucky Equality Federation will announce a lawsuit and other actions against Mountain View Elementary School in Hyden, KY, and the Leslie County Board of Education for reported discriminatory practices at a media conference at the entrance of Mountain View Elementary School in Hyden, KY today at 4:30 PM.
Hannah (under the age of 18), whose mother is Amanda Couch, was told she could bring the same-sex person she is dating to a “spring fling” and then denied entrance by school officials on arrival at Mountain View Elementary School in Hyden, KY. The school stated students from other schools were not permitted to attend, even though we have evidence (https://www.facebook.com/194058857467113/videos/153770033344808) and signed affidavits proving they did.
On June 15, 2021, during summer school (held because of the missed days related to COVID), all students were allowed to paint something creative on a wall outside the school. Hannah and her sister painted a rainbow flag. The flag was painted over, apparently, on orders from vice-principal Brian Hubbard. Hubbard is also the pastor of the Rockhouse Baptist Church as of December 20, 2020 (https://www.facebook.com/RockhouseBaptistChurch/posts/3510333935722466).
When her mother, Amanda Couch called the vice principal and protested, he apologized and promised he would allow her daughter to repaint her pride flag. However, upon arriving at the scene, she was only given the colors orange, black, and white.
Hannah and her sister are also upset the vice principal prays as a Baptist preacher at graduation and other school functions.
When Amanda Couch started complaining about Hannah’s art being painted over and connecting it to the spring fling, she and her children received swift backlash from the Rockcastle Baptist Church members, having been praised by the pastor and vice principal only weeks before (https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=352278132928377&ref=watch_permalink).
Hannah has been discriminated against, and multiple state and federal laws violated.
The entire family has suffered mental trauma as a direct result of the actions of the school and church, and it remains ongoing. Hannah now believes God hates her and is afraid to return to school with members of the Baptist church telling her or her mother that she will burn in hell for being a lesbian and instructing her mother to pray the gay out of her. One person specifically mentioned physical violence against Hannah with the statement, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” The vice principal apparently (we assume) told the entire congregation about the incident at school.
“The separation of church and state is deeply rooted in the constitutions of both the United States and the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” stated Kentucy Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “The reported actions of the vice principal are reprehensible.”
Section 5 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky guarantees religious freedom, which does not include sitting at a school function in a public school and having religion forced upon you:
No preference shall ever be given by law to any religious sect, society or denomination; nor to any particular creed, mode of worship or system of ecclesiastical polity; nor shall any person be compelled to attend any place of worship, to contribute to the erection or maintenance of any such place, or to the salary or support of any minister of religion; nor shall any man be compelled to send his child to any school to which he may be conscientiously opposed; and the civil rights, privileges or capacities of no person shall be taken away, or in anywise diminished or enlarged, on account of his belief or disbelief of any religious tenet, dogma or teaching. No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience. – Kentucky Bill of Rights, Section 5. Ratified August 3, 1891, and revised September 28, 1891
Kentucky law also states:
“Children have certain fundamental rights which must be protected and preserved, including but not limited to, the rights to adequate food, clothing and shelter; the right to be free from physical, sexual or emotional injury or exploitation; the right to develop physically, mentally, and emotionally to their potential; and the right to educational instruction and the right to a secure, stable family.” KRS § 620.010
The government has no right to force anyone to practice a religion or to try to persuade somebody to believe in religious principles. Public school officials are regarded as government employees who hold enormous power over a particularly vulnerable class of citizens, especially schoolchildren.
The courts have long held that children are less capable of rationally criticizing information provided by others than adults. When they are in school, they are also a captive audience: children are legally bound to attend school, and students who are responsible face social exclusion, or worse, formal punishment. School-led prayer forces a child who believes in a different god, or no god at all, to participate in a religion that she does not believe in, and that is impermissible under the First Amendment.
See U.S. Supreme Court Engel v. Vitale (1962), Lee v. Weisman (1992), Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000), etc.
Kentucky Equality Federation regional vice president William Taylor, who works in public education, also pointed out U.S. Department of Education’s Title IX, updated June 2021.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces, among other statutes, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Title IX states:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Title IX applies to schools, local and state educational agencies, and other institutions that receive federal financial assistance from the Department. These recipients include approximately 17,600 local school districts, over 5,000 postsecondary institutions, and charter schools, for-profit schools, libraries, and museums. Also included are vocational rehabilitation agencies and education agencies of 50 states, the District of Columbia, and territories of the United States.
A recipient institution that receives Department funds must operate its education program or activity in a nondiscriminatory manner free of discrimination based on sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Some key issue areas in which recipients have Title IX obligations are: recruitment, admissions, and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; sex-based harassment, which encompasses sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; treatment of LGBTQ+ students; discipline; single-sex education; and employment. Also, no recipient or other person may intimidate, threaten, coerce, or discriminate against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by Title IX or its implementing regulations, or because the individual has made a report or complaint, testified, assisted, or participated or refused to participate in a proceeding under Title IX. For a recipient to retaliate in any way is considered a violation of Title IX. The Department’s Title IX regulations (Volume 34, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 106) provide additional information about the forms of discrimination prohibited by Title IX.
“Without mincing words, the school and board of education have failed miserably,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “Discrimination, and bullying of children are principal reasons the U.S. is increasingly atheist, and church congregations continue to dwindle in size. Discrimination, bullying, and shaming also lead to higher suicide rates in LGBTI+ youth.
The Kentucky Equality Federation will use all available legal remedies to get justice for Hannah and her family.”
— Additional photos may be on Flickr.