A school district in Mississippi has settled a lawsuit and changed its policies after the family of a third grader filed a lawsuit alleging that the girl was prohibited from wearing a mask that said: “Jesus Loves Me.”
Third grader Lydia Booth says she just wanted to wear a mask with her favorite words because it made her feel safe.
“I chose [the mask] because it had my favorite words on it, ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ and it made me feel safe when I went to school,” Lydia, who was in third grade at the time, told Fox News, adding that she wanted to share that message with the other students.
Lydia’s mom Jennifer told the network that she was confused when her daughter was told by the Simpson County School District that she could not wear a mask with words on it during the height of the pandemic — back when they were required in October 2020.
“I was looking around, and all these kids had words all over their masks,” the mother said.
The family decided to file a lawsuit and was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
“The First Amendment prohibits schools from singling out students for their speech, especially religious speech,” ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross told Fox News. “It’s very simple: What the school was doing is a flat violation of the First Amendment.”
Fox reports that “at the time, the district did not have a policy that prevented Lydia from wearing a mask expressing her religious beliefs, according to the lawsuit. In fact, the district’s policy stated that it ‘recognizes a student’s right to free speech provided it is exercised in a manner which is not prohibited by law nor disrupts the educational process.’”
However, the policy was changed when Lydia started wearing her mask. They banned masks that were “religious or political.”
“It went from talking to the principal and it being about the dress code, then all the way up to the superintendent, they modified the policy to a ban on religious speech,” Jennifer said.
In a settlement with the family, the school has now removed the ban on political or religious speech on masks, though they are no longer required.
“It’s about the little things,” Jennifer said. “Day to day, you don’t notice a change, but five years from now, you’re going to look back to this day and see how drastically everything has changed.”
“If we have a belief, we have a right to share it,” she said.