Kountze ISD to hold public hearing on religious banners

A public hearing will be held on Tuesday, February 26, regarding the Kountze Independent School District's ban on religious run-through banners at high school sporting events.

Coti Matthews is the mother of a sophomore varsity cheerleader. She's at the head of the Matthews v. Kountze ISD lawsuit. She's hoping the district will lift the ban.

"The policy is fine like it is. We just need to lift the ban and move forward," says Matthews.

Matthews says her daughter's freedom of speech is violated by the ban on religious banners.

"If she's silenced and the girls are silenced on this, what's going to be next? They can't wear a cross necklace to school? It's time somebody took a stand," said Matthews.

Matthews and her attorney, David Starnes, believe a lot of parents will take a stand next week at the public hearing.

"We feel like the overwhelming majority of the community in Kountze is in favor of allowing cheerleaders to do exactly what they did. I don't believe the opposition will come close to the number of those in favor," says Starnes.

On a phone call Monday afternoon, Interim Superintendent Reese Briggs told 12News that the meeting was called to give the public a chance to speak on the issue. He says he's doubtful the board will take any action. He went on to say that statements will be collected and then discussed with the district's attorneys.

Starnes hopes there's enough statements backing the squad. 

"There's a very simple solution to the whole case and that is if they lift the ban, that their former superintendent put in place, the whole case would go away," says Starnes.

Matthews agrees saying the girls were trying to be encouraging and positive to both sides.

"There's not point in putting any new policy in place. The policy that's there is fine. The girls followed policy. They weren't breaking the rules," says Matthews.

The public hearing will be held Tuesday, February 26 at 6 p.m. at the Kountze Intermediate School library on Vaughn Street.

Meanwhile, eight Kountze Varsity cheerleaders will be giving depositions this week to the school district's attorneys.

The trial date for Matthews v. Kountze ISD is set for June 24.


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