Ten Commandment policy killed
November 25, 1999
A school board reversed its decision to post the Ten Commandments in district offices, saying it could not afford to fight a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Val Verde Board of Education in Riverside County, east of Santa Ana, voted unanimously on Monday to overturn votes it made in September and October to display the commandments.
The ACLU sued the board last week on behalf of several parents, referring to the 1980 Supreme Court ruling that posting the Ten Commandments in schools amounted to government promotion of religion.
The school board is still concerned by ”student lack of respect for parents, teachers and … fellow students,” said its president, Robert Givens. But he said the district could not afford to defend its decision in court.
”We wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize the education of the children,” he said. ”We have to respect the Supreme Court decision, and we didn’t want to chance having to use public funds to take on this fight.”
The ACLU will likely drop the lawsuit after it is assured the board will not resurrect the idea at the next meeting. Three similar lawsuits are pending in Kentucky.
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”Lots of different communities have tried this and the result is always the same: You are not allowed to post the Ten Commandments in schools,” said Michael Fleming, a lawyer with the Southern California ACLU chapter. ”One would hope that school boards would not make the unwise decision this board made.”
The Val Verde controversy began in September, when the superintendent asked for the commandments to be placed in district offices in the small towns of Moreno Valley and Perris about 70 miles east of Los Angeles. He said the request was inspired by recent school shootings nationwide.
Fleming said schools need to find alternatives to dealing with student behavior.
”I think we can all agree our kids need safe schools to learn,” he said. ”But we need to teach our children to respect all people, not just people of their own faith.”
The U.S. House passed a bill this summer in an attempt to make it legal for school districts to post the Ten Commandments. The Senate has not yet voted on the legislation.