High Court Rejects Appeal On Ban

Jan 15, 2003 12:49 PM EST

WASHINGTON - On Jan. 13, The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal to review a lower-court ruling, upholding a Columbine High School policy barring religious themes from being spoken in school-sponsored exercises. The appeal, made by parent of two children who were among the 13 murdered in the April 1999 campus massacre, came when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the school district had the authority to limit what is said.

"It's a dark day for anybody who's concerned about their own free-speech rights in a public school," said Jim Rouse, the lawyer for the parents who sued the school district, according to the Denver Post.

Both fathers were displeased with the high court's action.

"When your children are murdered, when your family members are murdered, the only one you can turn to is God," said Brian Rohrbough, whose son, Daniel, was killed. "And when the school system that allowed that to happen wants to take that away from you, it's valid to fight them at whatever levels are possible."

Donald Fleming, whose daughter, Kelly Fleming, was murdered, said, "The school district apparently believes in freedom from religion instead of freedom of religion. To me, the district has some strange values. But the court appears to have the same values."

School officials reason that if they do not ban religious tiles, Satanist tiles would have to be allowed simultaneously to Christian ones.

"It has never been easy to be in opposition with families of the victims," said Rick Kaufman, a spokesman for the Jefferson County school district, according to the Post. "They have suffered tremendously, not only through the tragedy, but the aftermath. Litigation, unfortunately, forces communities to pick sides."

The school permitted decorative tiles on the school's walls beginning in 1997, the Post reported. It decided to continue the tradition after the killings but prohibited tiles in the form of a memorial or with a religious theme. Rouse, however, said other memorial statements have been permitted.

By Pauline C.