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Parents sue West Shore School District for use of curriculum designed to teach students 'values and virtues'

Two families sued West Shore School District after officials refused to honor religious exemptions, saying that the parents failed to identify specific complaints.
Credit: WPMT

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. — Two families are suing a Cumberland County school district under claims that the school did not honor requests for religious exemptions from certain lessons for their children.

West Shore School District adopted CharacterStrong curriculum with approval from the Board of School Directors. The lessons are designed to "teach character traits and go in depth into what these traits look like and then follow up with practical ways to improve them in our own lives and with those around them."

The CharacterStrong curriculum seeks "to enable students to become their best possible selves."

The parents say the curriculum conflicts with their religious beliefs, despite not being able to point to a specific part of the lesson that violates their beliefs.

The school initially complied with the first family's request to exempt their children from the CharacterStrong lessons before asking the parents to identify what part of the curriculum was inflammatory in order to honor the request, in accordance with school board policy.

A lawsuit states that the parents again attempted to opt their children out of the lessons but still failed to identify any of the curriculum that contended with the family's religious beliefs, and the school again denied the request, citing the same reasons.

A second family requested the same exemption for religious reasons, but also failed to provide the school with details on what part of the curriculum made their request eligible.

West Shore School District denied this family's initial emailed request and second request for exemption made via a form provided by the district.

The families and law office representing them have requested a preliminary injunction to prevent the children from having to attend the lessons while the lawsuit is reviewed.

The parents are seeking monetary damages and other awards if the court rules in their favor.

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