Appeals Court Rebuffs District on Church Graduations

By Mark Walsh — June 15, 2010 1 min read
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A federal appeals court has rejected a Connecticut school district’s request for an expedited appeal in a lawsuit over the district’s efforts to hold high school graduation ceremonies at a large Christian church.

The action Monday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, in New York City, appears to have put the graduation controversy to rest for this year (though apparently not for good). The lawyer for the Enfield, Conn., district told the Hartford Courant on Tuesday that it would drop the matter because the district’s two high schools have to proceed with alternative graduation plans.

A federal district judge ruled May 31 that the district’s plans likely violate the First Amendment’s prohibition against a government establishment of religion because of the size and number of Christian symbols that ceremony attendees would encounter and because of the school board’s actions in pressing to use the First Cathedral Church in Bloomfield, Conn. I wrote about that decision here.

The Enfield school board initially responded to the judge’s ruling by voting to hold graduation ceremonies on the grounds of its two high schools. But on June 10, the board voted to ask the 2nd Circuit for an expedited appeal.

The appeals court rejected the motion on Monday. [The court’s action does not appear to be available on its Web site.] The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, which backed the legal challenge to the proposed church graduation ceremonies, has this update about the case. And though the district dropped further efforts to press the appeal for this year, it has indicated it plans to continue defending against the lawsuit in the hopes of holding graduation ceremonies at the church in the future.

The graduation ceremonies for Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School are scheduled to take place at the schools next week.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.