By Jacob Gallant | November 4, 2020 at 11:20 AM CST – Updated November 4 at 3:25 PM
PINOLA, Miss. (WLBT) – A disagreement over a third grade student’s mask is the basis of a federal lawsuit.
Lydia Booth wore a face covering with the words “Jesus loves me” on October 13 at Simpson Central School. Her principal made her remove the mask and wear another one, according to attorneys.
Masks cannot display political, religious, sexual or any inappropriate symbols, gestures or statements that may be offensive, disruptive or deemed distractive to the school environment.
Superintendent Greg Paes
The suit alleges the school district infringed on the girl’s first amendment right to free speech.
“Public schools have a duty to respect the free expression of students that the First Amendment guarantees to them,” said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross. “…Other students within the school district have freely worn masks with the logos of local sports teams or even the words ‘Black Lives Matter.’ This student deserves an equal opportunity to peacefully express her beliefs.”
The girl’s mother, Jennifer Booth, claims the school’s handbook not only had no policy limiting her daughter’s religious expression, but that the handbook actually protects her freedom of speech with policies under the Mississippi Student Religious Freedom Act.
Booth says a school official responded by giving her a modified copy of the school’s plan to combat COVID-19, which included the new ruling barring religious or political expressions on masks.
The lawsuit aims to prevent the school from enforcing the policy on face masks and claims the girl is being censored for an issue that could lead to further discipline if the policy is enforced.
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