ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The father of the likely valedictorian at Cuba High School who may not get to walk with her graduating class in May has filed a report with the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging religious discrimination by the school district.
Dwight Thompson said he first notified the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division about his daughter, Liberty Thompson, but was referred to the Education Division.
Liberty is on schedule to graduate in May, but because she is a Seventh-day Adventist, she observes Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Cuba Independent School District officials have scheduled the graduation on a Saturday.
Liberty and her family have been trying to get the day changed to Friday, but thus far have had no luck. She was not permitted to address the matter at a recent school board meeting.
“When graduation was on Friday morning, the district was in full compliance with their non-discrimination policy,” said Dwight Thompson in his email to the DOJ, “but when they moved it to Saturday, knowing it (would) cause conflict among their student population, that is when it discriminated against student participation.”
“This is not the only grievance that we have,” he continued. “TWICE, the board denied (Liberty) the opportunity to speak to her situation and make a request. She never demanded, but was denied the right to even appeal to the board.”
Christine Montoya, president of the Cuba Independent School Board, initially told the Journal that the New Mexico Public Education Department would not allow the district to change graduation from Saturday to Friday. The PED, however, said the decision is one for the school district to make.
With the ball back in her court, Montoya said the matter would have to be taken up by the board as a whole, and she wasn’t sure that would happen – at least not until she heard from parents.
Neither Montoya nor Superintendent Kirk Hartom was available for comment Wednesday.