School board settles lawsuit with $45,000 payout


Superintendent Campbell and board member Dr. Levinson listen to speakers from the community during the public comment portion of the meeting. The meeting discussed topics including the mask mandate and a pending lawsuit against the district. Photo by Alice Adams.

Ben Lees, Copy Editor

This previously ran in our February 2022 print issue.

On Monday, Feb. 14, the East Penn School Board agreed to settle a federal lawsuit with a Macungie family who alleged Emmaus High School violated their children’s religious rights by teaching anti-Christian and discriminatory lessons. 

The $45,000 settlement — approved by an 8-1 vote — was agreed upon by the district and Maureen and Christopher Brophy, who have two high school-aged children. In June, they filed a lawsuit claiming their children lost out on educational opportunities and faced racial discrimination because they were expected to learn about white privilege as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, among other topics. Matter movement, among other topics.

The settlement entails not only the $45,000 payoff for the Brophy family, but also ensures that one of the children will receive homebound instruction for all of their classes, where a teacher physically visits the student’s home. They also alleged that they were denied accommodations for disabilities, including not being required to wear a mask and being provided printed materials during periods of virtual instruction.

During the school board meeting, solicitor Marc Fisher read a statement which clarifies that the settlement neither confirms nor denies that the district or its employees named in the lawsuit did anything wrong; rather, it saves money in the long run to avoid further litigation.

The case, represented by the district’s insurance carrier, is being paid to the Brophy family by the insurance carrier, Fisher said, adding that “nothing should be construed to an admission of the liability on the part of the school district.”

The Brophy family claimed in September 2020 that teachers in their children’s classes introduced the book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. The lawsuit claimed the book violates Christian morals and teachings, including condemning the belief that there is only one God.

“The theory is problematic for Christians on the most foundational level as it is unlikely to help Christians pursue unity with God, a core belief of the religion,” the lawsuit said.

However, the district’s secondary curriculum does not include the book, nor does the district teach that any one religion or religious sect is the “correct” one. Instead, students learn about world religions secularly in their history classes.

According to National Public Radio, there is little evidence that critical race theory itself is being taught to K-12 public school students in the nation, although some central ideas that relate to it, such as slavery, have been.

Fisher said the board could make no comment at the time because the case awaits final approval from a federal judge, as the case involves minors.

During public comment of the meeting, one resident expressed concern about the board taking the settlement.

“When frivolous lawsuits are brought up and are settled, we’re not only setting a horrible precedent, but I ask you, what are we saying to our children?” Kirsten Hess said. “And what are we saying to our Black and Brown children? It’s not okay. White children are not in danger of having their feelings hurt by honest lessons.”

Hess was then shouted down by several people in the audience before concluding: “It is my opinion…that white children are not in danger of having their feelings hurt by honest lessons of our nation’s history.”

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Schmel is expected to approve the agreement.