Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 4, 2012

Judge approves settlement to remove Ten Commandments

Staff and wire report
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

NARROWS, Va. — A federal judge has approved a settlement in a lawsuit that sought to remove the Ten Commandments from the walls of a southwest Virginia high school.

U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski on Tuesday dismissed the lawsuit in his endorsement of the settlement, which detailed the substitution of Narrows High School’s framed copy of the Ten Commandments with an enlarged image from a textbook that contains a drawing of stone tablets representing the commandments. School officials already have made the switch.

Giles County school officials last week formally adopted the agreement. At a hearing on the lawsuit in May, Urbanski questioned the school board’s defense of the display and ordered the case to mediation.

The agreement also stipulates that the student and parent who brought the lawsuit remain anonymous, and that the school board cannot hang another copy of the Ten Commandments unless case law is changed by the U.S. Fourth District Court of Appeals or U.S. Supreme Court.

A four-foot tall display of the Ten Commandments was first hung on the walls of Giles County Schools following the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. The display was first taken down in December 2010 and replaced with a copy of the Declaration of Independence after school officials received complaints.

School officials returned the display to the walls of Narrows High School in January 2011 after complaints and local clergy, but then removed the display again in February 2011 with no reason stated. In March 2011, approximately 50 students walked out of school in protest of the removal of the biblical text, but most returned after speaking with a school resource officer.

The Giles County School Board voted 3-2 in June 2011 to hang an 11-document display containing the Ten Commandments on the walls of the school. The two dissenting school board members felt the school would not be able to afford the cost of legal battles if a suit was brought.

In September 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union brought a suit against the school board on behalf of an anonymous Narrows High School student and parent regarding the display. The Lynchburg, Va.-based Liberty Counsel began representing the Giles County School Board pro bono.

Urbanski threw out two motions made by the Liberty Counsel asking for the dismissal of the suit in November 2011 and then upheld ACLU’s motion to keep the name of the parent and student involved in suit anonymous in December 2011.쇓