Monday, October 26, 2015

Norm Ridder to be named as defendant in First Amendment lawsuit

Another mess that C. J. Huff has left for Norman Ridder to clean up.

A motion filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri indicates that Superintendent Norm Ridder will be named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by a woman known only as "Jane Doe" who claims her children's First Amendment rights were violated when North Middle School took a field trip to Victory Ministries and Sports Complex in May.

The lawsuit was initially filed against Huff and North Middle School Principal Brandon Eggleston. Eggleston will continue to be a defendant, but since Huff is no longer superintendent of the district, Ridder will be named as the substitute defendant if the judge, as expected, allows an amended complaint to be filed.

Doe filed the lawsuit on behalf of her children, one in middle school, and the other in elementary school.
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 judgment that school officials have violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and damages and punitive damages for violating the children's constitutional rights.

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


Dusty Roads said...

Welcome to Joplin Norm

Anonymous said...


More of this cr@p again?

Anonymous said...

90% of all notes sent home by teachers have to do with religion. CJ had the district promoting religion weekly. Nothing has changed with Ridder.

Tommy Walkinshaw said...

Here's a idea you big chicken s#%t sue happy liberal crybaby grow up and get over it. And teach your child to do the same! Just because you was a odd ball when you attended school doesn't mean you should make your child be one as well! You big puss your so afraid someboby might expose religion to your children. That you had to hide them instead of teaching them to form there own opinions. And they will grow up to be spineless liberal droines just like there parent who can't even file a lawsuit using there giving name! If it really bothered you that much you would thank that you would want people to know who you was so they could avoid loving Jesus in you and your childrens presence! But nope your a Coward! Miss Doe

Anonymous said...

Moron comment above filled with hate then calling out the person suing because they don't use their real name. Then ends it talking about loving Jesus. And people wonder why they don't want their children exposed to religion.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

My comment @ 7:13 was a little ambiguous.

I wish I had said


More of this Jeebus cr@p again?

It's a school not the R-8 xtian ebanjelical madrassa!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Tommy, for helping me choose a side in this drama. I think I'll choose to side with Ms. Doe. There's too much hatred and judging going on with your version of Christianity. If that is the religious value you wish to impose upon the children, then I am all for complete and total separation of church and state, including the schools. I don't want my children growing up to spout mean and hateful remarks in the name of Christ, but I do hope they will be more literate when they get through school than thou art, good sir.

Really? said...

So, how do you really feel?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree with 11:04.

It seems unfair that Dr. Ridder will inherit this since it was CJ who had direct communication with Ms. Doe's attorney prior to the field trip but chose to sanction it anyway. Does this mean if Eggleston is replaced as Principal (one can always hope) his replacement would then be a named defendant?

Anonymous said...

OK, so add Ridder if they want to assure the decision of the court applies to R8 in the future; but, surely they won't let Huff off the hook for his decision. Huff was the ultimate authority at the time.

Anonymous said...

Here is a question.

The suit originally named C.J. Huff and Brandon Eggleston in both their individual and official capacities at R-8.

Does the motion filed substitute Superintendent Ridder in his official capacity as Superintendent of R8 and leave C.J. Huff as a defendant in his individual capacity as originally filed? Or does the filing remove C.J. Huff as a defendant entirely?

Anonymous said...

Well, school time is lost for so many other stuff- field day, guest speakers, ceremonies. Your students can opt out of the activity. You can throw away the papers your kids send home.

Quit being offended. The world does not cater to you.