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Court allows Columbine ban on religious tiles to stand

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review a lower-court ruling upholding a Columbine (Colo.) High School policy barring wall tiles with religious themes.

The justices rejected an appeal by parents of two students who were among 13 people murdered in the April 1999 campus massacre. Columbine seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher in a shooting spree before taking their own lives.

The high court’s Jan. 13 announcement that it would not accept the case permitted a decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to stand. The appeals court had overturned a federal judge’s opinion. The 10th Circuit ruled the school district had the authority to limit what is said in a school-sponsored exercise, according to the Associated Press.

“It’s a dark day for anybody who’s concerned about their own free-speech rights in a public school,” said Jim Rouse, the lawyer for the parents who sued the school district, according to the Denver Post.

Both fathers were displeased with the high court’s action, according to the Post.

“When your children are murdered, when your family members are murdered, the only one you can turn to is God,” said Brian Rohrbough, whose son, Daniel, was killed. “And when the school system that allowed that to happen wants to take that away from you, it’s valid to fight them at whatever levels are possible.”

Donald Fleming, whose daughter, Kelly Fleming, was murdered, said, “The school district apparently believes in freedom from religion instead of freedom of religion. To me, the district has some strange values. But the court appears to have the same values.”

School officials said they banned religious tiles because of concern they would establish a precedent, according to the Post. They feared Satanist tiles would have to be allowed if Christian ones were, the Post reported.

“It has never been easy to be in opposition with families of the victims,” said Rick Kaufman, a spokesman for the Jefferson County school district, according to the Post. “They have suffered tremendously, not only through the tragedy, but the aftermath. Litigation, unfortunately, forces communities to pick sides.”

The school permitted decorative tiles on the school’s walls beginning in 1997, the Post reported. It decided to continue the tradition after the killings but prohibited tiles in the form of a memorial or with a religious theme, according to AP. Rouse, however, said other memorial statements have been permitted, AP reported.

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