KATY ISD School Teacher Filed a Federal Lawsuit Against the District After She was Banned For Praying

BREAKING: KATY, TX— Cardiff Junior High teacher Staci Barber has filed a federal lawsuit against Katy Independent School District (KISD) after the school district prohibited her from praying “when students might be present, even if that prayer occurs off the clock.”

Barber claims the principal of Cardiff Junior High violated her First Amendment rights when he punished her for praying on campus. On March 19, attorneys with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) helped the teacher file a lawsuit against the school district.

Allegedly, Cardiff Junior High Principal Byran Rounds blocked Barber, a born-again Christian, from founding a campus chapter for Students for Christ last year.

“Katy does not have religious clubs,” Barber claims that Rounds told her. “Cardiff [is] not allowed to have any religious clubs per Katy ISD.”

Barber, who has taught for twenty-six years, agreed to the district policy. Then, in September, the teacher participated in an annual prayer event called “See You At The Pole,” which she had attended every year for the last eight years.

The nation-wide event is a student-led and student-initiated prayer activity during which students gather to pray before school begins.

“…Concerned adults, including teachers and other school employees around the country, regularly participate to support and encourage those student leaders,” the lawsuit says.

Students of Cardiff Junior High were set to begin praying at 8:20 a.m., so Barber and other teachers organized via email correspondence to begin praying before 8 a.m.— before teachers were on the work clock, and before students were expected to arrive to pray.

Barber was praying alongside two other parties, a teacher and a friend, when Rounds halted their religious activity and took them into his office. According to Barber, alongside other teachers, she was “reprimanded for praying.”

“Mr. Rounds had never made an issue regarding prayer at the pole before, but this year was different, and he behaved in a hostile fashion,” the lawsuit reads.

After verbally reprimanding Barber, Rounds sent an email message directly to Barber, “warning her not to pray in the presence of students,” the lawsuit continued.

“Employees CANNOT pray with or in the presence of students,” he emphasized in the email. “You cannot ‘ask students to attend’ SYATP as that would be initiating and promoting the event.”

In response, Barber emailed back, “Mr. Rounds, I didn’t ask the students to attend. It is only for staff before students arrive just like we have done the past three years… There will be no kids when we are out there.”

“By 8:00 AM students are generally waiting at the front entry of the building,” Rounds responded back.

In his response, Rounds “thereby [implied] that students being present at the building while the teachers prayed at the pole would render Staci Barber’s conduct, praying at the pole, a violation of school policies,” the lawsuit says.

Prior to the lawsuit, the ACLJ filed a demand letter to KISD to request that the school stop infringing on Barber’s First Amendment rights.

“At first, [KISD] responded in a way that seemed positive, acknowledging that they violated our client’s rights,” ACLJ said.

Then, the school district purportedly backtracked, simply changing the verbiage on their district policy to justify their infringement. ACLJ responded by filing the federal lawsuit.

“This new language is still blatantly unconstitutional…[and] when the school did not respond to our repeated attempts to get this policy further corrected and clarified, we filed this major lawsuit on our client’s behalf,” ACLJ said.

On Barber’s behalf, the ACLJ is suing KISD and Rounds for “violating Barber’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

“The primary goal of this lawsuit is to ensure that the school amends its policy to reflect what the Constitution actually requires,” ACLJ asserted. “This school policy strips teachers and school employees of their fundamental right to express their faith freely and must be struck down. We need your support in our legal battles for your right to pray.”

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