Student Sues School For Zero Grade on ‘Religious’ Art


Tomah High School student's religious art

This from Associated Press:

MADISON, Wis. — A Tomah High School student has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his art teacher censored his drawing because it featured a cross and a biblical reference.

The lawsuit alleges other students were allowed to draw “demonic” images and asks a judge to declare a class policy prohibiting religion in art unconstitutional.

“We hear so much today about tolerance,” said David Cortman, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal advocacy group representing the student. “But where is the tolerance for religious beliefs? The whole purpose of art is to reflect your own personal experience. To tell a student his religious beliefs can legally be censored sends the wrong message.”

Tomah School District Business Manager Greg Gaarder said the district hadn’t seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.

According to the lawsuit, the student’s art teacher asked his class in February to draw landscapes. The student, a senior identified in the lawsuit by the initials A.P., added a cross and the words “John 3:16 A sign of love” in his drawing.

His teacher, Julie Millin, asked him to remove the reference to the Bible, saying students were making remarks about it. He refused, and she gave him a zero on the project.

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Related: Chad Farnan and the “Jesus Glasses” Case

23 thoughts on “Student Sues School For Zero Grade on ‘Religious’ Art

  1. In this day when teachers and administrators are witnessing the meltdown of our public education system, it’s beyond the pale that a so-called “teacher(?)” would be so bigoted and intolerant of a student’s innocuous drawing. I’ll bet the teacher would be just fine if the art depicted something promoting an extreme leftist point of view. Is it any wonder that teachers are under increased scrutiny for their political left propaganda?

  2. The school system stinks all it does is to teach are children to be humanist and tolerate evil and shun anything good and holy these new age teachers need to be fired from all the schools as far as Im concerned. Also the school has figuring’s of buddha and hindu,paintings of demons and sorcerer which offends the hell out of me. Where is the lefts so called tolerance. Wisdom to teachers, keep your new age left point of view to yourself you evil untolerent bigots.

  3. This has made me so angry! I am shocked at the way Christians are expected to respect all other faiths, along with icons, statues etc., yet must hide our own. It is happening in the UK. I seriously wonder what this is going to lead to. Everybody I knew, as a child, was a Christian (of sorts) and openly made reference to Jesus. Well! we were a Christian country after all. No ‘under the carpet’ stuff in those days. It is vary scary stuff.

  4. I am currently a college student studying Art History. Believe it or not religion plays a big role in Art. Practically everything in the middle ages from architecture of Mosques and Cathedrals to the Icons of holy figures had a religious theme. To state that no art will contain no reference to religion is ignorant. For art history itself is surrounded by religious themes. Greek god statues for example. Obviously the school system in that district is trying to play the safe card and just dodge a lawsuit but instead it looks like there actions are getting in the way of common sense.

  5. i must say i comend the teen who made the drawing. were many will talk about being wronged for their faith. we can truly see he was wronged for it. when we are persicuted for our faith in christ we are persicuted for he that died for us. he sees, he knows, dont loose heart.

  6. …yes, because if jesus taught one thing its: if you don’t get your way sue somebody!

    if the teacher gave the student a zero grade because of the pressure from the other students that teacher shouldn’t be “teaching” in the first place! as a current professor of fine art, i understand that there may be extenuating circumstances behind why this student may have gotten a zero that have now become blown way out of proportion (assignment criteria, etc.)

    is this not, however, an injustice that should be resolved within the school system? the fact that this story has garnered this sort of attention shows a motive far beyond getting the grade the student deserved. How about some forgiveness on the part of the teacher who will be exposed in their biased teaching? “A sign of love” or a sign of greed?

  7. @chainsaw…this has nothing to do with “getting your way”. If it takes as lawsuit or two to open some eyes to the fact that Christian persecution is real, alive and well in many parts of the world (including America) then so be it! I am not saying this is some gross hate on this student by the teacher…but it could be a hint of intolerance.

    If the school is 99% secular, chances are this would not have been resolved within the school system.

    Sometimes, intevention is the best form of love. Maybe the teacher should ask herself, “Why am I so against Christianity?” or “Why am I so scared to accept it?”

    Thanks for your comment!

  8. This is completely outrageous. For too long Christians have endured a bias against us which is not shown to other religions. The presence of other religious icons shows the double standard to which Christians are expected to agree. I don’t believe this is an angry student who wants to blow this out of proportion, but someone who knows that their rights were trampled on. How many more times should we allow this unfair prejudice to continue before somone steps up and demands that their Christian belief be treated with the same courtesy as any Hindu, Islamic, or Wiccan belief? I support this student and Chad Farlan in their efforts to receive justice.

  9. “Millin showed the student a policy for the class that prohibited any violence, blood, sexual connotations or religious beliefs in artwork…The boy tore the policy up in front of Millin, who kicked him out of class.”

    This isn’t “Christian persecution.” He didn’t follow the policy, so he fails. Cut and dry.

    He should probably be suspended for his little outbreak.

  10. @alexander.. i agree this may be an example of intolerance on Christianity, but it may also be an example of a secular misstep being shielded by religious sensitivity.

    the student was asked to create a landscape drawing. this may not be a teachers intolerance of religion, but more of a harsh teachers way to demand that HER (not sexist, just pointing out you mentioned “himself”) students follow her strictest instructions.

    this ultimately could launch into a entire argument on the credibility of foundations in art, but at most high school levels the parameters of many art classes is to follow the assignment, without much creativity or abstraction of the assignment (i know.. thats counterintuitive to the creative arts, but its the sad truth)

  11. @chainsaw… I thought art traditionally has had the widest parameters of all forms of expression, even in an educational setting.

    thanks for the copy edit!

  12. That’s another point entirely. The point is: there’s a policy and he broke it.

    As for your point: None of them belong in a public school.

    From the list of the boy’s other proposed “projects” and the fact that the assistant principal had to meet with his pastor, it’s pretty clear that the boy (more likely his family) is just trying to cause a stir.

  13. Although it’s lots of fun to try and “stir” things up with religion, he didn’t follow the assignment and he got a zero on the assignment.

  14. For a person of faith (not religion)…making a statement about their faith in Jesus is something more than causing a stir or having a little fun. It is a mandate. Not saying that every approach at proclaiming that Jesus is real and our salvation is appropriate…however, it is what we are called to do.

    BTW…what “religion” is a cross? What “religion” is a reference to John 3:16?

  15. @alexander.. as for why to lump religion in with the list of things to keep absent from the work i feel compelled to point to an anecdote. in graduate school one of my colleagues was creating work about the passing of her mother. (while i believe artmaking is fantastic as a cathartic experience) the problem arose when it became impossible for my colleague to distinguish critical analysis of her artwork and that of her mothers death. merely commenting on composition, color schemes, etc. became an attack on her mother. the personal message became too entangled in the formalization of that message. ultimately this led to my colleagues departure from the program.

    as well, what art traditionally is, and what art at a high school level is, is a pedagogical argument all in its own.

  16. Again, you’re arguing something completely different than the actual issue. It’s not a church/state issue. He didn’t follow the assignment and he received the appropriate grade. That’s how school works.

    As for the “mandate” for making statements about faith/religion, as long as you’re going to a public school, you’ve got to follow the rules and the law.

  17. Did it ever occur to the goverment that ever since the separation of chruch and state was flipped against the church, public schools in America have been in a steady decline? They want to convert Catholic schools into public schools. Like taking away Superman’s powers and expecting him to fight for the bad guys. And inflation is so big in America, now we can’t even defeat Iraq like we defeated the Nazis. There’s 3 6’s in 18. Didn’t the school give him a bad grade before his outbreak? Heathen art offends people as well as Christian art. If this isn’t Christian persecution, then how is it that Heathens get away with their religious drawings?

  18. If this kid was drunk or high on something then made the drawing with a reference to what he took I bet that teacher would have considered him a “genius” of fine art and there would have been no question about it.
    Many artists in history did some drugs before they sketched or painted and that’s considered ok. It’s MO for many musicians to do it all the time now. The kid showed some serious you know what to stand up to this secular “it’s okay when it fits our ideologue” nonsense.

    That teacher is narrow minded to imply that religion cannot be used in art. It’s everywhere in art history. What are you secularists going to do, rewrite all of history???

  19. I haven’t seen many of these such people on here, but I’m frustrated with u people who only care about the [expletive] rules!!! It is NOT cut and dry that he shoulda followed the rules. Under any circumstance, in my opinion, a person’s constitutional rights transcend the rules! U people don’t seem to care about the constitutional, which is FAR more important than some silly, obnoxious rule!!

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