Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New lawsuit filed against C. J. Huff, North principal

A lawsuit filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri alleges that Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff and North Middle School Principal Brandon Eggleston violated a student's First Amendment rights by forcing religion on children during a field trip.

The lawsuit was filed anonymously under the name Jane Doe, for herself and her two children, one of whom is an elementary student.

In a brief filed today, the attorneys for Jane Doe claimed that lawsuits of this nature, involving religious matters, often end up causing problems for those file them, and says that the plaintiffs could be subjected to "retaliatory physical and mental harm."

Plaintiffs are legitimately concerned about the possibility for intimidation, harassment, and physical harm should their identities become public.

The lawsuit claims the older child was "exposed to defendants' promotion and endorsement of religion" and "felt coerced by the school to participate in religious activity and has been made to feel like an outsider and unwelcome in the school district." The younger child will be a student at North, the lawsuit says, and the parent does not want any further such activity to be sponsored by the district.

The situation that brought about the lawsuit was explained as follows:

On or about May 8, 2015, a class field trip of students from North Middle was taken, during regular school hours, to a facility owned and operated by a Christian ministry. The facility in question is known as Victory Ministries and Sports Complex, and is located in Joplin, Missouri.

Victory Ministries and Sports Complex (hereinafter “Victory”) is a Christian facility that operates for three stated purposes that are expressed on its web site: “Exalt Jesus,” and “Expand the Kingdom of God,” and “Equip the Body of Christ.” 

The same web page states Victory’s goals, which include: “Keep Jesus central in everything we do,” and “Have God-honoring entertainment,” and other religious goals. Christian imagery is prominent at the Victory facility. Most, if not all signs that include the “Victory” name at the facility utilize a Christian cross as the “t” in the word “Victory.” 

A large banner that exalts Jesus is visible at the Victory gym. The banner, which states “Jesus is worthy of it all!” is placed high on the wall of the gym, above approximately ten other banners, many of which also contain religious messages. One banner, for example, reads “ Worship” whereas another states: “Hope. The confident expectation that what God has promised is true.”

Prior to the field trip, permission slips were sent home to parents for the school field trip to Victory. Doechild I was given a permission slip for Plaintiff Jane Doe to sign. The permission slip for parents to sign in order to allow students to attend the field trip expressly stated that parents understand that their children may be invited to Bible studies and local churches while at Victory. The same permission slip, in paragraph number 6, required parents to allow their child to participate in “worship services, Bible studies or any other activities that may pertain to the Christian faith.” 

 On May 5, 2015, an email was sent by American Humanist Association (“AHA”), a Washington, D.C. nonprofit organization, to Defendants Huff and Eggleston warning them that a North Middle School parent had raised concerns about the planned field trip and pointing out that the trip would violate the Establishment Clause. That same day, Defendant Huff responded to AHA’s email with an email of his own denying that the trip violated the Establishment Clause but admitting that the permission slip was inappropriately worded. 

Also that same day, in response to Defendant Huff’s email, the AHA sent a second email to Defendants, drawing specific attention to the religious nature of the Victory operation and warning that the field trip would result in litigation. 

Defendants did not respond to said email, and in fact, the trip was conducted on or about May 8.  Doechild I did not participate in the field trip, which was conducted during an ordinary school day. Plaintiff Jane Doe, faced with the choice of an unconstitutional field trip or no school for her child for the day, kept Doechild I out of school. As such, Doechild I was denied a full day of academics due to Defendants’ actions. If Doechild I had participated in the field trip, Doechild I would have been exposed to Christian messages that directly contradict the religious beliefs of Plaintiff Jane Doe and Doechild I.

The field trip has given the impression to a reasonable observer that the public school endorses Christianity. Doechild I was put in the position of having to choose to attend a religious school-sponsored event or forgo participation entirely. Public school resources, including paid personnel time and other resources, which were paid for by tax monies, were expended in planning and conducting the field trip to Victory.

The lawsuit asks for a permanent injunction against any further trips to Victory Sports Complex or any other religious-based venues, a judgement that Huff and Eggleston have violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and damages and punitive damages against Huff and Eggleston for violating the children's constitutional rights.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs are Arthur Benson & Associates of Kansas City.


Anonymous said...

R-8 is about to get taken to school here.

If the allegations are true then these @$$clowns are about to get internet famous.

kitty chiwawa said...

What about the school using Life Choices as their "abstinence-only" education curriculum. Now THAT was a joke.

Anonymous said...

The high school has been taking our children over there for "self-respect" trainings for a few years. It's great for those of Christian faith, but not everyone is, or in this country, has to be. The Fusion kids also get a lot of support from them, from what I hear. If Huff and Cravens had their way, the whole district would look like a giant version of College Heights. Trampling on Constitutional rights is a norm in R8. Staff can't say what they think without getting fired, and the entire adult work force, for at least two years in a row, was sent to College Heights for opening meetings in which the resident pastor addressed them and made many religious references. Once again, fine for those of that faith, but not everyone is, and in this country, we are not supposed to have religious practices forced upon us at public events and places of work. Why has no one protested? Because of this parent's fears. The Right in this area is very vitriolic, and too many administrators and coworkers shun and shame those who are not of the faith. It just has finally caught up to them.

I follow the teachings of Christ, by the way, before the histrionics start. But I also follow my country's Constitution, and believe district administration and those in charge of my children should, also. Forced religion has no place in a democratic republic.

Anonymous said...

Abstinence only isn't getting the job done, from the looks of things.

Anonymous said...

Take your ass to San Francisco or Chicago if you dont like it here. Sick and tired of some whiney, snot nosed liberal trying to make a quick buck because someone farted wrong or something. Smfh

Anonymous said...

How many lawsuits does this make for Huff? He better get to making some more speeches. I don't think he'll have enough of a raise this year to cover all of this.

What a bunch of fools, if this is true. I don't expect better than this from Huff, but I sort of did from Eggleston. I wonder if he ventured into this willingly? That would make me sad. If so, he needs to go. It's his job to act as supervising educator, not evangelical missionary to the children. If you want students to understand what it means to be a Christian, then act in all ways at all times like a Christian. But please, respect those of other faiths. It's their parents responsibility to choose their faith as children, and then they can pick their own as adults. This isn't the Middle East, and we are not the Taliban or any of those other groups. We don't force faith. We practice it.

Anonymous said...

I am a Christian, but I have never wanted my kids exposed to Christianity at school. There are too many variances in beliefs and practices, and once that door is opened, it can't be shut again. I want my children to practice the faith of my family until they are old enough to choose for themselves. I don't want them exposed to other versions of Christianity or any other faith. This was just wrong!

Anonymous said...

The school tshirts that the kids wear to field trips and things like that are sponsored by (and have the name of) Blendville Christian Church on them. Pretty sure that's not allowed normally either.

Anonymous said...

Once again the argument is 'don't trample on my right to trample on your rights.'

Anonymous said...

Don't kid yourself. Behind the scenes Brandon is a true member of the good ole boys club.

Anonymous said...

Specifically related to the Life Choices sex-ed class mentioned by Kitty, as it relates to religious teaching, I went through it in high school, and I don't remember there being any religious instruction. The validity of abstinence education, good or bad, is a different issue altogether.

Anonymous said...

Ymca is religious based too...better not go there!

Anonymous said...

In regards to the opening ceremony....College Heights was gracious to provide Joplin with a place to celebrate a new school year. In case you have forgotten, our town suffered a devestating loss four years ago to a tornado. Left with few options, an organization with religous ties provided a place. Now that the auditorium is finished at the new High School, opening ceremonies will take place there. Which will be a great day for all Joplin teachers.
Victory Sports Complex was an oppotunity for the kids to have FUN!! NOTHING religous in any capacity was mentioned or forced upon the students. I understand that freedom to worship has a place and time. In this instance, no ones first amendment rights were infringed. It is sad that we as a nation have come to the point that a cross would be so offensive you would have to bring a lawsuit. Dr Eggleston provided the students an opportunity that they voted for to blow some energy. Each one of us has a right to choose what we do. This parent chose to keep their child at home. Which was her/his right. Every one of the parents had the right to send their student or keep them home. Should 500 students suffer over the religious belief of 1? It is time to unite behind our students and support them and help them to be better than we have been. I support our superintendent and Dr Eggleston. This town has been through enough.

Anonymous said...

Very well said

Anonymous said...

12:54- I wonder what you or others would say if they had taken the kids to a Mosque for such activities? Would you be good with using r-8 funds to take kids to any other religious facility that was not christian based?

Anonymous said...

The Church, any Church, is simply another control point to provide a source of income and a method to control behavior of the great unwashed.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely, 5:02!!! There are other places to have fun and blow off steam, and the kids should have been presented with those choices to pick from. And I am sick and tired of the tornado ("been through enough") to justify every incredibly bad decision Huff and his administrators make. They are paid to respect and obey the law, and should model that behavior for the children.

Anonymous said...

CJ has frequently demonstrated his ignorance of the Sunshine Law and now we learn he doesn't understand the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment. I doubt very many people would know that term but, when violation of said clause is pointed out by an attorney, one would think he might consult someone who does know or at least check Wikipedia. He truly is a dumbass.

I agree with 5:02. If the students had been taken to a Mosque, or even a Synagogue, every good Christian parent would have stormed the Admin building and thrown a hissy fit.

CJ needs to stop deciding which laws he will allow to be broken at Joplin R-8 and just follow the law.

Anonymous said...

Another lawsuit for R8 to settle. Surprisingly, this one has nothing to do with Mike Johnson.

If all the kids did was go enjoy using the facilities, there shouldn't be a problem. There are Christian symbols everywhere. As a Christian, I find many more offensive signs and symbols around than ones that represent Christian beliefs. I am offended by that but I do not file lawsuits and if my children are present, use the situation to explain why I'm offended.

The permission slip sounded like an attempt to keep from having a lawsuit. And the parents so have choices: send the students on the field trip, send them to school or keep them home. Choosing to keep your student home should not be a reason to file a lawsuit.

If you eliminate Christians from supporting students, whether with facilities (FOR FREE!), tutors, supplies, meals, food...(an endless list) then you will no longer have many of the things that students, teachers and schools need. Get ready to pay up.

No one is forcing anyone to become a Christian. A relationship with Jesus Christ is offered by believers, but not forced. Becoming a Christian and being saved by following Christ is always an open and ongoing invitation for all, not something that is forced upon anyone. It can't be.

As far as taking my child to a mosque, I think I would want to know what will be happening. I would ask what kind of religious events, traditions or practices my child would be exposed to and then decide if I wanted him/her to attend. If the child was going to participate in the trip, I would be sure and give some background as to what they might see or hear and explain why we don't agree. My child would also be expected to act in a respectful manner while not participating in religious rites that are not of our faith.

Intolerance is a word that is misused too often. Hate is an assumption made too frequently. Lawsuits are filed over such nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Where else would they go? Seems their options for a safe, clean place to go have fun are limited in JOMO.

Anonymous said...

I have a student at soaring heights and this field trip bothered me too. We are Christian but not all Christian faiths are the same and the mixture of church and state here bothered me as a parent. I signed the permission slip but wrote on paragraph 6 "no" to the suggestion of bible study. Then I had a conversation with my child about it.
Also, at the different middle schools there are clubs like: "Teens for Christ" that hand out doughnuts and Bible sermons. This does not belong in school.

Anonymous said...

So sad

Anonymous said...

6:23 said: "As far as taking my child to a mosque, I think I would want to know what will be happening. I would ask what kind of religious events, traditions or practices my child would be exposed to and then decide if I wanted him/her to attend."

I would ask the same if my kids had been taken on this "field trip" as well. Funny how you call out intolerance in your post, yet feel compelled to ask this question if your child were taken to a mosque rather than a secular facility. The hypocrisy of the "faithful" is startling. The sad part is that it's never self-recognized.

Anonymous said...

I really do not appreciate the numerous brochures for Bible study, church funtivities, etc. sent home with my kindergarten student in Joplin Schools. My child's class was very diverse. I can only imagine how the parents of the Islamic or Hindu faiths with children in the class felt about the constant barrage of invites to Christian activities through our public school.

Anonymous said...

This is how CJ gets the community back on his side, RT. Please be careful with your coverage and keep a larger agenda in mind.

Anonymous said...

7:56 from 6:23,

I thought that people with other faiths would follow the same course that I would if my child were taken on a field trip to a mosque. There is nothing hypocritical in that.

I am always bothered by hypocrites' actions because they make things much harder for others. At the same time, I am not following a human who is imperfect (just like me). I am following and relying on Jesus.

To the second 7:56,

Throw the information away if you don't want it.

Anonymous said...

8:13: The school can have Planned Parenthood conduct sex ed and send condoms home to your kids can just throw them away if you don't want them to have them.

Anonymous said...

And if the tax exempt status of all Churches got jerked and they had to pay for their "entertainment" then perhaps the School District would not need their "charity". All religions are a pain but Christians are a major pain.

Anonymous said...

You should do some research on that tax exempt business. It's more of an urban legend and nasty threat. Is the "pain" you feel about Christianity or about imperfect and/or annoying people?

Unknown said...

Blendville is merely sponsoring activities monitarily, just like a business.
They pay to have that on shirts. That is very different than holding a captive audience.

Anonymous said...

8:34 spoken like a true faithless person, but I forgive you!

Anonymous said...

If you want your child to hear the teachings of Jesus Christ, take them to a church, or discuss it at home.

If you want your child to hear the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, take them to a mosque, or discuss it at home.

If you want your child to hear the teachings of Judaism, take them to temple, or teach them this at home.

If your child to learn the ways of Vishnu, take them to temple, or teach them at home.

But if you want your child to learn ANYTHING about religion, do not take them to a state sponsored school. Religion has no place there. This is precisely why this country was founded, to escape the religious persecution and oppression from govt. Our forefathers sought the freedom to worship when and where they wanted to, and they NEVER wanted it to be state/govt sponsored.

So for all you close-minded religious zealots who think your religion is the ONLY religion, and that your religion belongs in a public school, I would paraphrase a sentiment you commonly express to those who may differ from you in any way, "GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM! THIS IS AMERICA, LAND OF THE FREE - INCLUDING FREEDOM FROM STATE SPONSORED RELIGION!"

If you want want your religion in schools, move to a country that takes the freedom of religion away from its people!

Anonymous said...

Really??? So constitutional rights do not apply here?? This is not a "liberal" issue; this is a constitutional issue. Last time I checked that's more of a tea party thing...

Anonymous said...

Joplin Schools has been towing the line for MANY years, when it comes to field trips and handouts at school, not to mention passing out Bibles on the way to the buses. I'm Christian and i sent my daughter to Christian school for four years, but it's not right to mix Religion and Public Schools, PERIOD. I have a feeling Joplin will lose this lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

Finally another Christian that makes sense (post at 9:13 AM) - If we Let the schools start teaching religion, they will bastardize that too! For the sake of argument, let's say they should teach Christianity above all other religions (this is the first problem with the arrogance of most Christians), but let's say they are allowed to teach it for now. Look what they have done to all other subjects with common core! Do Christians really want the public schools interpreting the bible, or ANY other religious text?

If they can't teach simple division or multiplication anymore, without over complicating it, or taking others' feelings and backgrounds into account, just imagine what a sermon from a public school would sound like, "The Bible is full of parables designed to teach you life lessons and in fact, the life of Jesus was nothing more than a parable too, designed to teach compassion and forgiveness!"

Are you so called "Christians" sure you want to open that door? Keep Religion, ALL RELIGIONS, out of public schools, they have a hard enough time trying to determine what U.S. history is/was, I can't even begin to imagine what they would do to theology!

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU DEMAND, just might get it!

Anonymous said...

Brandon Eggleston is a pompous, ignorant jerk. He's the reason I, and several other faculty members, left North. He is highly unethical and the poorest excuse for a leader I've ever encountered in my many years in education. He is condescending, manipulative, and vindictive. He's a master at delegating his work to others then claiming undue credit. Hopefully this lawsuit will expose him for the snake he is. His departure from North would be best for kids and for faculty morale!

Anonymous said...

^ Faculty members that left North this year are:
Chad Ruddick
Anna Busby
Kalan Hubbard
Sara Reineke
Sallye Mallory (retired)
Amy Palmer (retired)
Brent Thompson (retired)

Of this list Id think the person most likely to have made this post has NO BUSINESS calling anyone else pompous or condescending.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing with the morale at North.

Anonymous said...

So sad to see negative comments about every single issue! Joplin will NEVER be the school district you all claim to desire! How can that happen when the vultures circle at every opportunity? We have lost so many good teachers and administrators to other districts and now I understand why.

Anonymous said...

I have experienced Brandons unprofessional and bully tactics. I don't have an issue with the Vi Tory venue. Christian students have offensive things forced on them AT school on a daily basis. People need to get over it. My question is how are these two children going to function in society, be offended and sue. I get the students were bothered but that's real life. People in the real world face things they are offended by.

Sara Reineke said...

I'm so sad to read these comment and to hear from many sources that my name was attached to a negative comment about North Middle School and Brandon Eggleston. First of all, North Middle School has a wonderful morale. Kids love it there and the high school kids come back all the time and say how much they miss it. The teachers there are a FAMILY and have an unbelievable support and love for each other. I have been quoted many times saying "North is an amazing/ magical place for kids" The teachers truly care about kids and go the extra mile to make sure the job is getting done well and the kids are well taken care of at all times. I LOVED NORTH MIDDLE SCHOOL. Second, Brandon Eggleston is a great leader! I worked for him for 3 years and I looked forward to coming to work every day. He is highly ethical, fair, consistent and he truly truly cares about the kids, teachers, and staff in his building. In past years, North has been a school with very little turn over and I am sad to see such a high turnover this year. Speaking for myself, I DID NOT leave North or the district because I was unhappy, but quite the contrary. I was fortuate to have the opportunity to be home with my own kids next year. In fact, I loved my job so much, it made it really hard to make the decision. If I ever go back to teaching, the first place I would look is North Middle School and I would love any opportunity to work for Brandon Eggleston.

Chad Ruddick said...

First and foremost, I find it incredibly sad to know that my name was brought up on this blog by an anonymous author. I don't read the Turner Report too. I work at Lowe's and spend the remainder of my time with my wife and kids. I found out about my name being mentioned here through a customer telling me at Lowe's this evening. I am the type of person that is open and honest, although sometimes too blunt. I will openly tell someone what I believe to their face before posting anonymously on a blog.

What I post here is my response:

Grow up! The same message I teach my kids in the classroom, I give you now. Yes, there are problems in Joplin, that's no secret. But if you get in the mud with pigs, you're going to get in the shit! The only difference is that the pig likes the exchange!

I loved working at North Middle School. In 7 years, I never wished to teach in another building. North is my home. My North friends are my second family! We came together when one of our teammates got sick, we shared in park day, we had a tremendous amount of laughs and cries together. At the end of the day, North cares about kids. I have watched as North has been publicly bashed throughout the years, all the while showing the most improvement in our students. Do I think some things could have been done differently? Absolutely. But North, administrators/teachers/staff, always did right by students. We took care of our students! Somewhere along the line, people have wanted to make issues with single individuals of the district. However, many of these folks have little to no idea what actually happens in those walls. They rely on second hand knowledge or just outright rumors. The lawsuit against the district and Brandon is faceless. Taking issue with a student celebration because of the location is ridiculous. And the larger issue is the entity bringing the suit. Yes, threaten a district that is struggling to help their teachers, and students. Honestly, it's the equivalent of kicking a man when he has slipped in the mud. Act like professionals. If you can't do that, act like adults. If you can't do either, keep your mouth shut!

Regardless of what is said about the building, the morale is better than any other building in the district (my opinion here). I think the higher turnover rate is a result of the political issues (and uncertainty) in Joplin and general issues with teaching than with the building itself. And to set the record straight: there were 4 people who retired, two that pursued careers outside of education, and two who accepted other positions in education (myself being one of the two).

It's not a secret that I wished to continue my career in Joplin. However, I was fortunate enough to find a position in another district which was closer to home. My new position comes with many of the pieces I was looking for. I will be able to spend more time with my family and have new opportunities. My North family is still with me. (I see or talk to many of them daily.)
Any issues I have with folks can be duly noted. Those people are aware and I have spoken with them directly. I'm not a person that is silent when discontent. That's how grown adults handle their business. Not veiled behind an "anonymous" tag on a blog.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying every person on this list is pompous and condescending? Pretty sweeping statement. I know CJ and co. are worthless. Brandon is closer to CJ's crowd than these teachers. I know some of these peope, and they are damn fine teachers and human beings.

Anonymous said...

You go Ruddick!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I have watched as Joplin continually loses great teachers and promotes lesser candidates. The "Sorority Sisters" club established when Besendorfer was there still continues. Joplin has made a habit of promoting lesser qualified candidates into leadership positions and then continually treating their qualified teachers/leaders poorly. Is it really a surprise that Brandon Eggleston is really in violation of the law? The Special Education department has been out of compliance with legal requirements for some time now. (Oh wait we weren't suppose to know that!)

Back to leadership...In one case, I witnessed a female candidate hired into a TLC position over one of the teachers that left. He had more experience, a hire education level, and twice as much time in the district as her. (In fact, Chad's daughter was in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy and he still made time to go to the interview. It would be like the 7th time he applied for a position in Joplin and the 7th time he did not find one.) What I'm getting at here is that Joplin touted that they wanted to be the "district of choice" in their Strategic Plan but have taken great steps to prevent amazing leaders from gaining leadership positions. To list them all would take more space than this blog has.

I issue this you this challenge Joplin community members, please don't beat up on your teachers. Support them. Protect them! They are putting their heart and soul into teaching your children. Take issue with the administrators. The administrators who bully these teachers. Hire a superintendent that will recognize incompetence and clean it out. CJ Huff is leaving, send the others packing with him. That's what the teachers of Joplin deserve!

Anonymous said...

When someone publishes a snarky comment aimed at teachers, don't assume it is another teacher. This blog is peppered with Trojan Horses. It usually begins with 'I hate CJ Huff as much as the next person.' Then, the sneaky bastard posts some divisive comment aimed at 'fellow' victims of Huff and the Establishment Class.