Schultz vs. Medina Valley School District

We represent a family of four in a lawsuit to stop a school district in Castroville, Texas from sponsoring prayers at high-school graduations and other school events. In May, we learned that the Medina Valley School District intended to sponsor at least two student-led prayers at its upcoming high-school graduation. We soon found out that school officials–including teachers, coaches, and principals–have been promoting Christianity for years, both during the school day and at school activities and events. (For more details, read our Church & State article here.)

On May 26, 2011, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of Christa and Danny Schultz and their two sons–including Corrie Schultz, a graduating senior at Medina Valley High School. Within days, the federal district judge in Texas held a hearing and concluded that the graduation prayers were school-sponsored, and thus violated the Establishment Clause and decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The school district appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, arguing that the prayers were student-initiated and not school-sponsored. This appeal was supported by the Texas Attorney General; the high-school valedictorian also sought to intervene and argued that she had a free-speech right to deliver a Christian prayer in her valedictory speech. We argued, however, that these prayers were indeed school-sponsored, and pointed to email in which the Assistant Superintendent acknowledged that “the format [and] religious portions of our district ceremonies . . . are overseen and supported by our Board of Trustees.”

Late in the afternoon of June 3–just over 24 hours before graduation–the Fifth Circuit issued an unsigned order that overturned the trial judge’s decision and allowed the graduation prayers to go forward; the Fifth Circuit cited the “incomplete record at the preliminary injunction stage of the case.” Graduation took place the next day, and Christian prayers were delivered during the Invocation, Benediction, and valedictorian’s speech. Unfortunately, the Schultz family did not attend, out of concern for their safety resulting from opposition to their lawsuit. (Watch Christa and Corrie Schultz’s interview with CNN here.)

Meanwhile, the case is now back in front of the trial judge and will soon enter the discovery phase. During discovery, we’ll have an opportunity to learn more about the school district’s sponsorship of prayers at graduation ceremonies and other school events. We also encourage other families in the community to contact us if they too are concerned about the school district’s promotion of religion.