An Illinois high school senior is set to face a disciplinary hearing after she refused to participate in the school's Student Gender and Sexuality Program and requested a religious accommodation exempting her from the class.
First Liberty Institute, a religious rights law firm, sent a letter to the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) located in Aurora, demanding the school immediately approve senior Marcail McBride's request.
"Under Illinois law, schools must provide religious accommodations for their students, and they must also honor requests to excuse students from programs with sexual content," said Keisha Russell, counsel to First Liberty Institute.
"Schools should never violate the religious conscience of their students. We hope President Torres ends the school administrators' clearly unlawful behavior and protects the religious liberty of every student by granting an accommodation to the family," Russell continued.
The IMSA offers programs for talented students from 10th grade through 12th grade. The school's tuition-free residential educational program enrolls a diverse student body of 650 from all areas of Illinois; admission is highly competitive, according to the IMSA website.
The school requires students to complete the Student Gender and Sexuality Program before graduation. Students must agree to both "stay engaged" and "experience discomfort" while participating in the program, which uses sexual language to identify sexual preferences and gender identity.
In November, McBride's parents notified IMSA officials that their daughter could not participate in the program because it forces her to violate her religious beliefs. The IMSA leadership repeatedly denied the McBrides' request and threatened to punish Marcail if she does not participate in the program.
According to attorneys with First Liberty, the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires IMSA to refrain from placing a substantial burden on the religious exercise of its students.
And Illinois law states, "No pupil shall be required to take or participate in any class or course in comprehensive sex education if his parent or guardian submits written objection thereto, and refusal to take or participate in such course or program shall not be reason for suspension or expulsion of such pupil."
Russell added, "The school is attempting to evade the law that allows parents to opt their children out of sexual education by claiming that discussions about sexuality are not sex education. But the law is clear—the school is required to provide an accommodation to our client."