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School Reinstates Honors Student Punished Over Religious Service Work

By Todd Starnes/TWITTER

A Virginia school district said they would reverse a decision to remove a student from the National Honor Society just hours after the student filed a federal lawsuit accusing the district of religious discrimination.

The 17-year-old student had been placed on probationary status because she had completed her community service work at a local church. The NHS faculty advisor at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology told the student that her hours would not count because her work was in a church and was in violation of district policy.

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However, a spokesman for the school district told Fox News that the faculty adviser was mistaken.

“A mistake was made,” spokesman John Torre told Fox News. “It was an honest mistake. There was nothing sinister about it.”

Torre said the student had been placed on probationary status but will now be a member in good standing. She is also being credited with the service hours performed in her local church.

Torre said he was not sure if the district had issued an apology to the student or reprimanded the faculty advisor.

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“Everything is under review right now,” Torre said. “We want to make sure going forward how the policies are structured so there is no misinterpretation down the road.”

 The school board’s faith-based service policy states that in order to be considered for credit, faith-based activities “must have a secular purpose…and may not include preparation or participation in the performance of religious services.”

That’s still a problem for Matt Sharp, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund who is representing the student.

“We applaud the school district for wanting to right this wrong,” Sharp told Fox News. “We are of course glad to work with them to change the unconstitutional policy.”

Sharp said the lawsuit has not been dropped. He still wants the policy changed – and he also wants to make sure the school district will undo damaged caused by his client’s NHS status.

“There were some scholarship deadlines that were missed,” he said. “She was unable to apply for those because of her probationary status.”