Honors student accuses school of sabotaging grades, scholarship applications over religion

DENVER -- She was an honors student and a member of student council, but now Cidney Fisk is suing her former high school for violating her constitutional rights.

Fisk graduated from Delta High School in 2016. She is accusing her teachers of sabotaging her grades, and chances for college admission and scholarships because of her religious beliefs.

“Not only did they change her grades, they took away her recommendations and they ostracized her,” said Fisk’s attorney Jeffrey Springer.

Fisk said she encountered several run-ins with religion while attending Delta High School, including an instance when the school made Bibles available to students during the school day.

She said when she protested Colorado’s Personhood Amendment in 2014 on school property, a teacher reprimanded her in front of her class by saying “’God gave babies life and abortion is murder.’”

Then, she said a guidance counselor “told her that if her attitude didn’t change, she ‘would hate to ruin her position in student government’ and ‘ruin her grant opportunities’ for college," Springer said.

“We maintain that the Delta administrators all the way up to the principal of the school used religion to educate and control students to a certain extent,” Springer said. “The extent to which religion permeated the school is astounding to me.”

He said the threats against Fisk turned serious after the district hired motivational speaker Shelly Donahue to speak at a mandatory sex education assembly.

Donahue teaches an abstinence-only course and according to her website, she is “passionately committed to Jesus Christ as the ultimate answer to the teen sexual activity problem in America.”

According to the lawsuit, the superintendent once told a reporter “because Delta Schools do not accept federal and state funds for sex education programs, the school district did not have to follow federal guidelines like the mandate to have comprehensive sex education and the separation of church and state.”

Fisk voiced concerns to the local paper over the material in that assembly, the material presented in a separate speaking engagement at the school and over a school club in which doughnuts were offered to students who engaged in prayer before classes.

In the article, Fisk “outed” herself as an atheist.

“Her grades were changed to F’s almost immediately after the Daily Sentinel article featuring Ms. Fisk was published,” the lawsuit says.

Fisk said before the article, she had earned a 98 percent in her student government class but was dropped to a 70 percent because of her “'questioning of authority,’ particularly religious authority."

According to the lawsuit, her teachers “told Ms. Fisk that she was being highly disrespectful and that if she wanted her grades to go up, she should ‘shut up’ and ‘fake it until she makes it.’”

“Her view was not consistent with their and she was punished for that,” Springer said.

According to Fisk, after the article, guidance counselors failed to submit scholarship applications for her and wrote her negative letters of recommendation for colleges.

“Freedom of religion is not only freedom of religion, it’s freedom to disagree with religion, to not have a religion,” Springer said. “I will certainly fight to protect everybody’s religious views and their right to practice religion but I think when you seek to impose your religious views on others, that’s dangerous.”

And he believes it’s unconstitutional.

“We have a constitutional protection that says that there is a separation of church and state and religion does not belong in the schools,” Springer said.

Calls and emails to Delta County Joint School District 50 were not returned.