Doe v. Beaumont Independent School District

AU's Role: 
AU's Involvement Began: 
June 1997

The Superintendent of the Beaumont Independent School District in Texas instituted a "clergy-in-schools" program, whereby clergy serve as counselors and mentors to students. No other professionals are allowed to participate in the program, and students are chosen at random without parent permission. Despite the explicit limitation to religious persons, the trial court found the program constitutional. AU worked closely with counsel on the case and filed amicus briefs in the Fifth Circuit asking that the program be declared unconstitutional. In August 1999, a panel of the Fifth Circuit found that the program reflected an unconstitutional preference for religion. On January 26, 2001, in an en banc decision, a divided court of appeals vacated the panel decision and sent the case back to the district court for further factual findings, ruling that whether the program is constitutional depends on whether the totality of the School District’s mentoring and counseling programs constitute an endorsement of religion. After trial, the district court held in August 2002 that the program was unconstitutional because there were no comparable secular programs. The School District did not appeal the ruling.