Student seeks apology and policy changes to prevent future wrong-doing to students

Declo, ID—Today Declo High School student Sierra Norman and her mother Janeil Norman filed a civil rights complaint against Declo High School with the Cassia County Joint School District. The complaint seeks to remedy violations of Sierra’s rights by the school district for failing to protect her against discrimination based on religion and sex. The ACLU of Idaho is representing Sierra and her mother.

Sierra, now a senior student at Declo High submitted all the paperwork she needed to run for Student Body President this spring, but the school refused to put her name on the ballot. The school said that Sierra was not enrolled in at least six non-online classes. But the only other student who petitioned to run for Student Body President apparently was not enrolled in six non-online classes for credit either. Papers filed today allege that the difference was that the other student was male and took both online classes and LDS seminary. Sierra is female and was not enrolled in a religious release class.

“Our investigation left us more troubled than when we first heard of this case,” said Leo Morales, ACLU of Idaho Interim Executive Director. The ACLU of Idaho asked to meet with school district officials to discuss Sierra’s case and concerns over school policies, but the district, through its lawyers, refused to meet. “Sierra and I thought for sure that we could resolve this easily and amicably with just a candid, proactive conversation,” said ACLU of Idaho Legal Director Richard Eppink. “We feel forced to now file a civil rights complaint with the school district to make sure Sierra has a fair chance at getting some justice, and to make sure this never happens again,” Eppink said.

While the school based their decision to exclude Sierra from the student body ballot claiming she was not a full-time student, school records show that she is, in fact, a full time student and that the district receives state funding based on Sierra’s full-time status. In the complaint, the ACLU presents evidence that Sierra is a full-time student. Sierra is enrolled in both Advanced Placement and college credit classes through the Idaho Digital Learning Academy (IDLA), which she took while physically present at Declo High School, in the library.

The civil rights complaint asks for an independent investigation and a meeting with school officials. Sierra asks for a full written apology as well as changes in school policy to prevent different treatment of students who take online classes. Additionally, the complaint asks the school district to change their policies to prevent exceptions or exercise of discretion to favor students participating in LDS seminary or other non-curricular religious activities.

Sierra concludes, “I want to make sure no other student has to go through what I did with Declo High School. While I will not be able to positively impact my school as Student Body President, I can stand up for student's rights and impact schools all across Idaho.”