officials indicated that to protect student’s mental health and keep
the school from becoming a memorial, religious symbols on tiles painted
by families after the Columbine High School shootings would be banned.
Their views were wrongly excluded while
other religious-themed exhibits inside the schools were allowed, including
a framed poster saying,” God wept over Columbine this day, April 20,
1999,” argued the families.
On January 22, 2002, the two sides filed
185 pages of appellate briefs with the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals; and on February 1, 2002, oral arguments in the case were
heard in its Denver courthouse.
A ruling in 2001 by U.S. District Judge
Wiley Daniel, that school officials had violated the families’ First
Amendment guarantee of free speech, was appealed by the school district.
The district was originally sued over what
was known as the tile project, in which thousands of students, teachers,
families, rescue workers and others in the Columbine Community were
invited by the families of slain students Kelly Fleming and Danny
Rohrbough to paint tiles for the school walls.
The tile project was created to help students
“reclaim” their school after two Columbine seniors attacked it with
guns and bombs, killing 12 students and a teacher, and wounding more
than 20 other people before taking their own lives according to testimony
from school officials.
However, when people showed up to paint
tiles, school officials said they could not paint religious symbols,
the name or initials of any slain students, other references to the
shootings or the date of the attack.
In their appeals brief, school attorneys
said, “Given the mental health issues faced by the returning students
and the desire that Columbine High school be a school rather than
a memorial, these guidelines and their enforcement were reasonably
related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.”
However, school officials allowed numerous
religious and non-religious memorials to be placed in the school after
the shootings countered the families’ attorneys.
Included, was a plaque saying, “IN HONOR
OF THOSE THAT LOST THEIR LIVES OR THOSE THAT HAD THEIR LIVES CHANGED
FOREVER ON APRIL 20, 1999.” Other
commemorative plaques included a frame containing one slain student’s
(Karen Abbott, “Religious tiles moved for
mental health, school districts says," Scripps Howard News Service,
January 23, 2002)
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