Education A National Roundup

Mich. District Ordered to Pay Fees For Girl in ‘Diversity Week’ Case

By Caroline Hendrie — October 19, 2004 1 min read

A Michigan school district found to have censored illegally a Roman Catholic student’s views on homosexuality has been ordered to pick up the girl’s legal tab of nearly $103,000.

A federal judge in Detroit ordered the Ann Arbor school district early this month to pay the fees for Elizabeth Hansen, who filed suit in 2002 shortly after her graduation from Pioneer High School.

The same judge ruled last December that the 17,000-student district had violated her rights to free speech and equal protection under the law, as well as the constitutional prohibition against a government establishment of religion.

The dispute centered on a “Diversity Week” program at the school in March 2002.

According to court papers, school officials refused Ms. Hansen’s requests to have her views presented—either by herself or a member of the clergy—during a panel discussion on religion and homosexuality organized by the high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance.

She was then allowed to speak at a school assembly, but only after excising references in her speech to people whose sexual orientation had shifted and her inability to “accept religious and sexual ideas or actions that are wrong.”

A spokeswoman for the district said last week that the school board would discuss whether to appeal the ruling on legal fees at its Oct. 27 meeting.