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Teen accused of casting spell sues Oklahoma school district

By The Associated Press

10.31.00

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An Oklahoma high school student and a Louisiana pagan minister both are taking battles involving witchcraft to court.

Fifteen-year-old Brandi Blackbear — who says school officials have accused her of being a witch and casting a spell on a teacher — filed a federal lawsuit last week against public school officials in Tulsa who suspended her last year.

"This little girl has suffered tremendously emotionally," said John Mack Butler, an American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma attorney representing Blackbear in the case. "Her constitutional rights have been trampled on."

An attorney for the school district said it would "defend itself vigorously."

"We try our cases in the court house and not in the media," Doug Mann said.

Blackbear said she was suspended for 15 days last December from Union Intermediate High School after officials accused her of being a witch and casting a hex on a teacher who had to be hospitalized. The teacher, identified in the lawsuit only as Mr. Kemp, is not a named defendant.

Prior to the suspension, the school was supposedly rife with rumors that Blackbear, then a ninth-grader, was a witch after she checked out a book in the fall of 1999 from the eighth-grade library that contained a section about the Wicca religion.

School administrators are accused of coercing Blackbear to confess that she was a witch who cast a spell on the teacher. But Blackbear says she's not a witch and does not practice the Wicca religion.

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 26, also accuses school officials of trying to suppress any inclination or expression of the Wicca religion. Blackbear said school officials discovered a five-pointed star with a circle she had drawn on her hand. Officials allegedly said the emblem was an occult symbol and that Blackbear couldn't display it.

Blackbear said she had seen the symbol but didn't know what it meant.

ACLU attorneys say school officials also violated Blackbear's rights over a 19-day suspension in April 1999 in which a short story with a reference to an armed student was taken from her.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, claims violations of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and various breaches of the Civil Rights Act. Defendants include Tulsa's Union Public Schools and nine school board members, principals and counselors.

Calls to several individual defendants were not immediately returned.

Meanwhile, Monte Plaisance, a 28-year-old Wiccan minister in Houma, La., filed a federal lawsuit late last month challenging a Terrebonne Parish ordinance banning fortunetelling and palm reading.

Plaisance said that on Aug. 18, a city detective showed up at the witchcraft museum he owns in Houma, a town of about 30,000 people about 30 miles southwest of New Orleans. The detective told Plaisance he was investigating a complaint about the goings-on at the museum.

Plaisance, who says he communicates with ancient Greek deities, let the detective photograph the museum's Tarot cards, altar, crystal balls, trident wands and pentagrams. The museum also serves as a church for a coven of about 20 witches, Plaisance said.

"I don't see that I'm a threat to anybody," Plaisance said. "This is how we communicate with our gods and guide our lives."

He was joined in the Sept. 29 lawsuit by 19-year-old coven member Anthony Folet, a palm reader. The suit challenges the law on the basis that it prevents them from practicing their religion.

The ordinance was passed under a state statute that allowed local governments to regulate such activities, said Joe Cook, of the Louisiana chapter of the ACLU. The ACLU is representing Plaisance and Folet in the lawsuit.

The ACLU argues that if the parish bans fortunetelling, then it effectively bans weather predictions, fortune cookies, commodities predictions and doctors' prognoses.

Update

Student accused of practicing witchcraft loses lawsuit
Federal judge rejects Oklahoma teen's claims that school officials suspended her because of her interest in Wicca.  07.20.02

Related

Antiquated N.C. laws linger on books
Wiccan charged under anti-divination statute claims law violates her free-speech, religion rights.  09.08.99

Federal judge upholds Indiana students' right to wear Wiccan symbols
Court finds no evidence to suggest high school seniors' pentagrams caused disruption.  05.01.00

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