September 27, 2017 / 2:15 AM / a year ago

Atheist Colorado student sues school district for discrimination

DENVER (Reuters) - A former student has accused a public high school in Colorado of lowering her grades and undermining her college plans because she is an atheist, according to a federal lawsuit.

Cidney Fisk, 19, a graduate of Delta County High School, contends her rights under the U.S. Constitution, including her right to free speech, were violated, according to the lawsuit filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in Denver.

“Defendants retaliated upon plaintiff Fisk, threatened, punished and censored her, for expressing her opinions on religion, abortion, sex education, and drug education,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit names Delta County Joint School District No. 50, which serves the town of Delta about 180 miles (290 km) southwest of Denver, as well as its superintendent, school board, a teacher and counselors as defendants.

Fisk, who graduated in 2016, was critical of the school district as a student, which the lawsuit said led to discrimination against her.

Fisk attended Delta High School, the district’s Superintendent Caryn Gibson said by phone. She declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying the district had not received it.

Despite maintaining a 4.1 grade point average her senior year, the complaint said Fisk was not recommended for membership in the National Honor Society and her scholarship applications were not forwarded with positive recommendations.

Two colleges denied her admission because of negative feedback from school officials, the lawsuit said.

The school district “permitted, encouraged and supported” Christian religious activities on school property during school hours, Fisk’s lawsuit contended.

A teacher dropped Fisk’s grade in a class about government after she questioned a drug abuse speaker about his qualifications when he spoke about his religious convictions, the lawsuit said.

Fisk suffered anxiety attacks that required hospitalization and received death threats following her public opposition to a function at a local middle school where Bibles were passed out to students, the lawsuit said.

Fisk is seeking compensatory and punitive monetary damages for economic losses, emotional distress, humiliation and other suffering.

Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver, Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Lisa Shumaker

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