A mom is suing an Upstate school district after her daughter's principal made he re-write a pro-LGBTQ essay, claiming that the topic was "disagreeable" and would "make other parents upset," according to a lawsuit.
Filed in U.S. District court on March 6, the lawsuit names the Spartanburg County School District 6, Anderson Mill Elementary School in Moore, S.C., and school principal Elizabeth Foster as defendants.
All fourth graders at the school were assigned to write a letter addressed "to society," according to the lawsuit. All papers were to be combined, published, and sent home with the students.
The student's grandfather is gay. Both the student and her mom, Hannah Robertson, are "proud advocates of LGBTQ rights," the suit alleges.
After Principal Foster reviewed all the papers, she told the girl to submit a different, watered-down essay on "bullying."
The student, who is also a plaintiff in the suit, is referred to as "R.R.S." in court documents. She and her mother are being represented by Columbia attorney Eric Poston.
Foster "religiously defended" her position within the week before the suit was filed. She told the student's mom that the original paper would "make other parents upset" and "create a [sic] undesirable situation at the school," according to the complaint. She also said it was "not age-appropriate to discuss transgenders, lesbians and drag queens outside of the home."
The suit alleges that the defendants violated the student's First Amendment right to free speech. It also claims that the school district, the school, and the principal engaged in negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Robertson and her daughter are seeking attorney's fees along with actual and punitive damages. Poston, their lawyer, says that he would also like to see Foster replaced with a "compassionate, caring, non-judgmental" principal.
"However, the most important goal is to show this child that that the vast majority of people are on her side – that Principal Foster speaks only for herself and very few others," Poston said in a statement released Wednesday. "This child needs to know that, through her bravery in standing up for herself via this lawsuit, she is helping ensure that no child is ever again forced to feel the way Principal Foster made her feel."
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, spokeswoman Cynthia Robinson said the school district does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
"Spartanburg County School District Six takes strong issue with the lawsuit recently filed against the District, as well as the statement issued by the attorney who filed the lawsuit, which are replete with blatantly false statements and accusations," the district said. "Our attorneys will file a response to the lawsuit and vigorously defend the district and Principal Elizabeth Foster."
Here is the student's original essay, as printed in court filings:
I don’t know if you know this but peoples view on Tran’s genders is an issue. People think that men should not drees like a women, and saying mean things. They think that they are choosing the wrong thing in life. In the world people can choose who they want to be not being told that THEIR diction is wrong. I hope people understand that people can hurt themselves from others hurting their feelings. People need to think before they speak because one word can hurt someone’s feelings. We need to fix this because this is getting out of hand!
The student's second essay about bullying, allegedly written to replace the original, is also included in the original complaint.
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