School Suspends Girl
For Casting Spell -
Makes Teacher Ill
By Ben Fenwick
OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - An Oklahoma high school suspended a 15-year-old student after accusing her of casting a magic spell that caused a teacher to become sick, lawyers for the student said on Friday.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it had filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on behalf of student Brandi Blackbear, charging that the assistant principal of Union Intermediate High School in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, suspended her for 15 days last December for supposedly casting a spell.
The suit also charged the Tulsa-area Union Public Schools with repeatedly violating Blackbear's civil rights by seizing notebooks she used to write horror stories and barring her from drawing or wearing signs of the pagan religion Wicca.
``It's hard for me to believe that in the year 2000 I am walking into court to defend my daughter against charges of witchcraft brought by her own school,'' said Timothy Blackbear, Brandi's father. His daughter is now a 10th grader.
Joann Bell, executive director of the ACLU's Oklahoma chapter, said the ``outlandish accusations'' had made Blackbear's life at school unbearable.
``I, for one, would like to see the so-called evidence this school has that a 15-year-old girl made a grown man sick by casting a magic spell,'' Bell said.
A lawyer for the school district declined to comment.
The lawsuit, filed on Thursday, alleges that Blackbear was summoned to the office of assistant principal Charlie Bushyhead last December after a teacher fell ill, and was questioned about her interest in Wicca.
According to the lawsuit, Brandi Blackbear had read a library book about Wicca beliefs and, under aggressive interrogation by Bushyhead, said she might be a Wiccan. In fact, Blackbear is a Roman Catholic, according to the newspaper Tulsa World.
``The interview culminated with Defendant Bushyhead accusing Plaintiff, Brandi Blackbear, of casting spells causing (a teacher at the school) ... to be sick and to be hospitalized,'' the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit stated that because of the ``unknown cause'' of the teacher's illness, Bushyhead advised the 15-year-old girl ''that she was an immediate threat to the school and summarily suspended her for what he arbitrarily determined to be a disruption of the education process.''
Doug Mann, the school district's attorney, declined to comment, saying laws protecting the school records of juveniles barred him and the district from responding outside of court.
``It's totally unfair that we are gagged by federal and state law and they can say anything they want,'' Mann said. ``If the parents will sign a release for what's in the girl's files, we will talk about the true facts.''
The lawsuit alleged Blackbear's civil rights also were violated when school officials prohibited her from wearing or drawing in school any symbols related to Wicca, a religion that dates back to pre-Christian nature worship.
The ACLU is seeking an undisclosed amount of punitive and financial damages for Blackbear, a declaration that the school violated the girl's rights, an injunction preventing the school from banning the wearing of any non-Christian religious paraphernalia and an order expunging her school record.
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