Huntington Beach City School District (HBCSD) is being sued in Santa Ana federal court because an elementary-school principal allegedly barred two students from passing out fliers promoting “Bring Your Bible to School Day.”
However, HBCSD Superintendent Gregg Haulk counters the complaint contains “inaccuracies,” that the second and fourth graders were merely directed to follow standard procedures when it comes to distributing materials on campus, and that the boys did pass out fliers once those rules were explained to their parents.
Freedom X, a Los Angeles-based group dedicated to “protecting conservative and religious freedom of expression,” filed the suit Jan. 7 on behalf of Jason and Holly Bausch. It alleges that 8-year-old Nieka and 10-year-old Micah Bausch sought permission to distribute fliers that promote the Focus On the Family-sponsored event during lunch and recess at John R. Peterson Elementary School.
However, Peterson Elementary Principal Constance E. Polhemus allegedly told the boys’ mother, “As a public school, we cannot approve the distribution of religious materials to students during school hours,” charges Freedom X, which claims the Bausch boys’ rights to free speech and free exercise of religion under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution were violated.
“Principal Polhemus and the Huntington Beach City School District are about to learn a hard lesson in constitutional law,” vows Bill Becker, Freedom X’s president and chief counsel. “Students, regardless of grade level, have a First Amendment right to express a religious viewpoint to another student, including the right to distribute religious fliers, without fear.”
Becker then piles on: “One wonders how school administrators come to believe that the voluntary expression of religious viewpoints in a public school is somehow forbidden, but everything else (including the perverse indoctrination of LGBT propaganda) is permissible.”
Haulk maintains that it is HBCSD policy to preview any fliers—religious or otherwise—that might be distributed on any district campus, and if the material is approved, “the school provides direction in regards to the distribution so it does not create a disturbance to our learning environment.” Claims the Bausches were not allowed to distribute their fliers are “not accurate,” Haulk says, because, after the Bausch family was made aware of the proper procedures and the school checked with the superintendent’s office, permission was granted and the boys passed out materials at Peterson Elementary the next day.
“Huntington Beach City School District is disappointed that this complaint was filed,” says Haulk, who believes the HBCSD actions “were appropriate” and the students’ constitutional rights were “in no way” violated.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.