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Supreme Court skips Columbine tile case. (In the Capital).

The Supreme Court in January declined to review a U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that barred religious themes from a school project at Columbine High School.

After two students entered their Colorado high school in spring 1999 and shot and killed numerous students and faculty, a couple of teachers created a project to help the shocked student body become reintroduced to the building. The project asked students to create "abstract artwork" on tiles that would be installed throughout the halls of the school.

The Columbine administration approved of the undertaking, but added that "to assure that the interior of the building would remain a positive learning environment and not become a memorial to the tragedy," the tiles should not be adorned with references to the attacks, names of the victims or religious symbols.

The Rutherford Institute, a Religious Right legal group based in Virginia, sued Columbine on behalf of parents and children who included religious icons or messages on their tiles. Rutherford's lawyers argued that the ban on religious symbols violated students' religious liberty and free speech rights. A U.S. district court agreed.

The Fleming v. Jefferson County School District R-I case was appealed to the 10th Circuit, which reversed the lower court's ruling. The appellate panel concluded that the ban on religious symbols did not subvert the students' rights and noted that public schools are not traditional public forums. Ultimately, the court held, school officials retain control over educational assignments.
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Publication:Church & State
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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