Just ask Gonzo: Cross-dressing lawsuit still awaiting school's answer

Steve Gonzalez Apr. 6, 2006, 4:56am

Question: Would you please do an update on the woman with nine kids who was upset with her school because it made the kids dress up as cross-dressers?

My children have always had a spirit week at their school and we have never had a problem with them dressing up. If this woman was so Christian, maybe she should have sent them to a private Christian school.

Javier Jenkins
St. Louis, Mo.

Gonzo: Lora Stanley, who parents six foster children and has three of her own, claims children in grades kindergarten through 12 at Carrier Mills School in Saline County, Ill. were instructed to dress as a member of the opposite gender in order to receive a reward on Nov. 1, 2004.

She filed suit in federal court claiming the school violated the Constitution by instituting "opposite sex" day during its spirit week.

Not much has happened in the case since it was filed on Nov. 10, 2005. Magistrate Judge Clifford Proud granted the school's motion for additional time to answer the complaint. The school has to file its answer by April 17.

On April 4, Proud also entered scheduling and discovery orders in the case. He will hold a settlement conference on Dec. 14, 2006, at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis and then set the trial for Jan. 29, 2007, before District Judge Phil Gilbert in Benton.

"Stanley, who is a Christian and endeavors to direct the upbringing of her children according to principles according to the Bible, and being advised that the boys were wearing short skirts and large breasts groping themselves as part of the activities, pulled her children out of school to avoid exposing her children to the cross-dressing taking place in the school," the complaint states.

Stanley pulled her children from school that day so they would not be injured by the stigma of being the only students not to participate and go unrewarded.

According to Stanley, she complained about the cross-dressing tradition in 2003, but claims the school dismissed her concerns. Her vocal criticism has drawn the attention of several local and national media outlets.

"By conducting opposite sex day at its schools, Carrier Mills violated Stanley's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to direct the upbringing of her children...in the book of Leviticus in the Christian Bible, cross-dressing is forbidden by God," the complaint states.

"Nonparticipation would also not prevent the interference with Stanley's ability to raise her children according to her Christian values, as her children would be exposed merely by being present at school to sexual matters being cast in a light hostile to the religious principles she seeks to instill in her children," the complaint states.

She also alleges that school superintendent Richard Morgan placed several calls to the Department of Children and Family Services, reporting her as an unfit mother and foster parent. Stanley claims he told caseworkers that he would continue to make complaints until DCFS took actions against her.

According to Stanley, Morgan told DCFS that he removed his own children from her daycare years before due to filthy conditions, and publicly said that she was "crazy" and accused her of having "deep seeded problems."

The suit alleges that Stanley's children also were harassed, threatened and received excessive punishment from school officials.

Stanley is seeking injunctive relief finding Carrier Mill's opposite sex day as unconstitutional, as it violates her parental rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

She claims she has the right to direct the upbringing of her children according to a sincerely held religious belief.

Stanley seeks to prohibit opposite sex day and compensatory and exemplary damages, plus attorney fees and costs of the suit.

Editor's Note: Questions about old cases should be sent to steve@madisonrecord.com.

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