School District Reverses Policy Banning Religious Literature

Aug 9, 2006

Charlottesville, VA - Following intervention by Liberty Counsel, students in the Albemarle County Public Schools will now be able to distribute information announcing Bible clubs, church activities and other after-school religious events.

Last week, twins Gabriel and Joshua Rakoski requested permission from their teacher at Hollymead Elementary to distribute flyers announcing a church-sponsored Vacation Bible School scheduled to begin on August 7th. Their teacher refused permission and required the twins to put the flyers back in their book bags. Their father, Ray Rakoski, contacted the school and was referred to the District's literature policy, which prohibits "distribution of literature that is for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes."

Mr. Rakoski contacted Liberty Counsel for assistance. Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter informing the District that its literature distribution policy was unconstitutional. The District could not ban the Bible club flyers while allowing other announcements about after-school events, such as Boy Scout meetings or karate classes. The District responded by reversing its religious literature ban.

The District's policy was in direct conflict with the United States Supreme Court precedent requiring schools grant equal access to facilities and provide equal treatment to religious organizations as is provided to secular organizations. The District violated well-established constitutional principles by prohibiting the Rakoski twins from distributing fliers about their church-sponsored event.

Anita Staver, President of Liberty Counsel, stated, "We are pleased the Albemarle County Public Schools will now allow students to distribute literature with religious viewpoints. We are especially pleased with the prompt resolution of the matter by the school district. The First Amendment extends to the distribution of religious literature and students do not shed their constitutional right to free speech when they enter the school."