Christian Curriculum in Public Schools
SACRAMENTO (CN) - A public schoolteacher says she was harassed and reprimanded and that her principal called her an "anarchist" because she objected to Christian faith-based curriculum in her elementary school. She claims the Yuba City Unified School District "has a history of promoting Christianity and/or accommodating Christian faith-based organizations and churches in violation of the California and federal Constitutions."
Lisa Polonsky-Britt, who is Jewish, claims Yuba City schools retaliated by suggesting she transfer to one of two other schools: "St. Isidore's and Faith Christian, both religious schools."
Polonsky-Britt sued the Yuba City Unified School District and four of its administrators in Federal Court.
Polonsky-Britt says that in March 2008, April Lane Elementary School in Yuba City incorporated Christian education into its curriculum, "based, in part on a program called 'Character Counts' a Christian faith based program."
Polonsky-Britt says defendant Angela Huerta, the principal, pushed the unconstitutional program at a staff meeting, saying "that she needed the entire faculty to be 'on board' with the program."
Polonsky-Britt says she "expressed concern about this particular program insofar as it might violate federal and state laws regarding separation of church and state by requiring district resources, i.e., teachers, to implement the program."
After the staff meeting, she says, the principal called her into the "and asked whether she had 'a problem' with Character Education."
Polonsky-Britt says that in October 2008, teachers were given flyers to send home with students about the school's "fall festival," which "had a Christian message and those attending were invited to pray at the conclusion of the performance."
Polonsky-Britt says a parent sent her an email expressing concern about the flyer, and she "directed the parent to Huerta."
"The parent, unable to contact Huerta, complained to the YCUSD's district office. Subsequently, Huerta called the parent at home demanding to know if the parent had been 'speaking to Mrs. Britt' about the flyer."
Again, Polonsky-Britt was summoned to the principal's office, "and for approximately one hour [was] verbally reprimanded for sending her the email."
Polonsky-Britt says the harassment continued when she was "falsely informed ... that due to a student shortage she would have to accept a part-time position at April Lane or transfer to another school."
The only school offered to her was King Avenue Elementary School, "whose principal, Tom Walters, was hostile toward plaintiff, and previously asked her 'how does it feel to be an anarchist,'" according to the complaint.
"Plaintiff's concerns about Mr. Walters were well founded as he was hostile to her before school even began," Polonsky-Britt says. "He refused to provide her a room key, forcing her to seek a custodian and only be able to prepare her classroom when custodians were present. Mr. Walters refused to respond to plaintiff's requests for any help at all, and remained hostile until plaintiff was compelled to take a leave for medical reasons caused by Mr. Walter's hostility and YCUSD's refusal to intervene."
She adds: "YCUSD continued its retaliation and discrimination against plaintiff by 'attempting to accommodate' her by offering relocation to other school sits, namely St. Isidore's and Faith Christian, both religious schools."
Polonsky-Britt demands $100,000 for her mental pain and anguish, as well as compensatory damages, including past and future wages, for deprivation of her constitutional rights under state law. She is represented by Michael Trezza with Trezza Ithurburn.