Sierra Norman entered Declo High School her freshman year full of excitement and motivation to challenge herself academically and become involved in the school’s extracurricular activities. At first she loved Declo. Everyone was so welcoming. But then the questions began: “What ward was she in?” “Where did her dad go on his mission?” Once her answers began to circulate in the community it became clear that her family was not Mormon and had no intentions of converting. The prior welcoming attitude towards her came to a halt. As a driven student, Sierra’s two main goals for high school were to become Student Body President and to graduate as class Valedictorian. When it came time for Student Body President elections, Sierra was not allowed on the ballot because she was taking advanced classes online that were not offered at Declo due to its size. The school deemed the classes unacceptable to count towards a full-time student status. Her opponent was allowed to run unopposed and win, even though he did not meet the full-time requirement either. Similar to Sierra, he was also enrolled in advanced online courses. Additionally, he was leaving campus during the school day to attend a Mormon seminary class which the school considered acceptable.
Norman v. Cassia County Joint School District
Undaunted by the school’s response, Sierra and the ACLU of Idaho filed a complaint with the School District and then in federal court. In September 2016, the school district settled the case, agreeing to permanent policy change to ensure that students who are taking online classes, seminary and other religious classes, or classes offered for college credit, as well as home school students, have equal opportunity to participate in the school activities, including student government.
April 19, 2016
United States District Court for the District of Idaho
B. Lynn Winmill