Fort Wayne sued after disciplining child over comments on religion

Forest Park Elementary in Fort Wayne (WISE-TV photo)
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A Fort Wayne teacher is being sued for allegedly violating a student's constitutional rights.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne, alleges a second grader at Forest Park Elementary School told another student he doesn't go to church and doesn't believe in God. That upset the other student, who said it hurt her feelings.

WISE-TV in Fort Wayne reports when the teacher heard about the boy's comments, he made him sit by himself at lunch for three days and ordered him to not talk to other students, "because he offended them."

Leonard Goldstein, regional director for the Indiana Civil Liberties Union agrees that the teacher overstepped her boundaries.

"A teacher has no business looking into the religious beliefs of their students. That's not part of her job description," Goldstein said. "And it flies in the face of our country's attitude toward religious freedom."

The student and his mother are asking for monetary damages and costs. The district is not named in the lawsuit, but released the following statement:

"It is clear that it is not the province of a public school to advance or inhibit religious beliefs or practices. Under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, this remains the inviolate province of the individual and the church of his/her choice. The rights of any minority, no matter how small, must be protected."