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Student accused of practicing witchcraft loses lawsuit

By The Associated Press

07.20.02

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TULSA, Okla. — A high school student has lost her lawsuit that claimed she was suspended because of her interest in the Wicca religion.

Brandi Blackbear, a senior-to-be at Union Intermediate High School, filed her federal lawsuit in October 2000.

An July 18 order by U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan said neither of Blackbear's two suspensions in 1999 violated her constitutional rights.

Eagan said Blackbear testified during a deposition that she is not, has never been and has never wanted to be a Wiccan. The judge also said Blackbear admitted that the defendants have not done anything to keep her from practicing any religion.

"In view of this testimony, the court finds that Brandi does not hold a sincere belief in the religion of Wicca," Eagan wrote in the order.

Union Public Schools attorney Doug Mann called the lawsuit "absolutely ridiculous."

District Superintendent Cathy Burden said the case became an "international media event" that put Union in an unfair light. The "frivolous lawsuit," she said, cost the district more than $100,000 in legal fees.

Eagan's order also said Blackbear has admitted that religion played no role in the decision to discipline her in December 1999.

Blackbear's attorney John M. Butler said he thinks the order may not be "exactly correct" on those points and said his client's purported statements may have been "taken out of context."

The judge wrote that Blackbear stated in a "self-serving" affidavit that she stopped studying Wicca as a result of allegations supposedly made by a school official.

The order indicates that Blackbear received a five-day out-of-school and 10-day in-school suspension for "disrupting the educational process."

Specifically, two of Blackbear's classmates had alleged they were "fearful" because she allegedly was claiming to be a witch and to possess the power to harm people by casting spells on them, the order states.

Burden said July 18 that the suspension had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with Blackbear's "terrorizing" students.

She said the whole "religious freedom" allegation appeared to be a ploy to make the lawsuit more exciting to the media.

The order states that Blackbear also was suspended in late April 1999 for 19 days for making threats against students.

Butler said an appeal is probable and expressed optimism that Blackbear will prevail at that level.

Burden said Blackbear is now a "successful student in our district."

Previous

Teen accused of casting spell sues Oklahoma school district
Meanwhile, Wiccan minister challenges Louisiana parish's law banning fortunetelling, palm reading.  10.31.00

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