A mask with a religious message has unmasked bias and prejudice in a Mississippi school district, and a lawsuit is underway.
What did the school do? According to mom Jennifer Booth, It barred her third-grader daughter from wearing a “Jesus Loves Me” COVID-19 mask to school, lied that there was a policy against it, and then tried to fabricate such a policy after the fact when called out on the free-speech-right violation.
Booth described her struggle with Simpson County School District over her daughter Lydia’s mask in a podcast with the Daily Signal.
The Alliance Defending Freedom is representing both mother and daughter, and accuses the school of abandoning its duty to “respect the free expression of students that the First Amendment guarantees to them.”
“No public school student should be singled out for peacefully sharing her religious beliefs with fellow students,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer.
Booth said she was surprised when the school let her know that her daughter was banned from wearing a COVID face mask with the words “Jesus Loves Me” in pink letters, even after the girl had already worn the mask for several months.
The school’s handbook and rules contained no such speech ban, and in fact expressly enforced students’ freedom of speech, Booth said. When she challenged school officials, they were also unable to find such a rule.
Days later, the school told Booth that the ban on “religious” words was in the school’s COVID restart plan. Booth checked the original posting of the plan. It wasn’t there, even though it did appear in a document that an administrator emailed to her.
Booth, an IT worker, checked the metadata of the document she was sent and found out the policy had been modified by a school administrator “30 minutes before he called me.”
She reached out to ADF shortly, and now the case is pending.