In documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Karl Blanchard of the Joplin law firm of Blanchard, Robertson, Mitchell, and Carter objected to the first set of interrogatories sent to his client by attorneys representing a mother who is suing Huff and North Middle School Principal Brandon Eggleston after North students were sent to Victory Ministries and Sports Complex for a field trip on May 7.
The lawyers wanted Huff to provide information on whether Victory had been used for previous field trips under that name or when it was known as The Bridge during the past 10 years.
If so, state each year that a field trip was taken to the Victory venue, describe the classes that went on each field trip, identify the school staff that attended each field trip and describe whether each such trip was student initiated or initiated by district staff or some other means.
Blanchard argued that the interrogatory was "overbroad, constitutes harassment, and seeks irrelevant and immaterial information."
Blanchard also objected to a request for the venue of all field trips taken by the school district in the past 10 years, saying the request was "unduly burdensome and time consuming."
Objections were also made to a request that Eggleston provide "all e-mails, letters, records, and other written communications relating to any kind of interaction between the school district and staff of Victory Ministries and Sports Complex" from 2010 to the present. Blanchard said the request was "overbroad and burdensome."
The situation that brought about the lawsuit was explained as follows:
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. Doe child 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. Doe child 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 Doe child I out of school. As such, Doe child I was denied a full day of academics due to Defendants’ actions. If Doe child I had participated in the field trip, Doe child I would have been exposed to Christian messages that directly contradict the religious beliefs of Plaintiff Jane Doe and Doe child I.
The field trip has given the impression to a reasonable observer that the public school endorses Christianity. Doe child 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 woman is being allowed to file the lawsuit as Jane Doe after a ruling by Judge Douglas Harpool. Her attorney argued that she might be subjected to retaliation if people knew who she was.