KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A judge has lifted a temporary injunction telling Portage Northern High School to move its graduation date to accommodate a Jewish student.

The injunction was lifted Monday. That means the high school will not be forced to move its graduation date while a lawsuit moves through the courts.

The lawsuit, which was filed March 27 by Portage Northern senior Minaleah Koffron, said the school violated her constitutional rights when it scheduled graduation on May 26. That date is also the Jewish holy day of Shavuot.

Minaleah Koffron’s lawsuit alleged there were also previous instances in which the school scheduled important events on Jewish holidays, even though she said her parents routinely provided a list of those dates.

Her lawsuit asks the court to force the district to move graduation, not repeat similar scheduling and award Minaleah Koffron at least $25,000 in damages.

Marla Richelew, representing Minaleah Koffron, told the court that graduation is covered under two provisions of the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act, with one of them requiring accommodations in public services.

“Here, despite having notice of Shavuot, this specific Shavuot since at least 2015, despite the constant reminders in 2015 and 2017… they scheduled graduation on a Jewish holiday and refused to acknowledge that,” Richelew said. “This time, they haven’t apologized or promised to be better in the future.”

However, Mark Ostrowski, who represents the district, superintendent and principal, argued that reasonable accommodations for education only apply to events directly impacting school attendance or taking tests. He added rescheduling now would be detrimental to the families of other students.

“This is not a case where they are asking for reasonable accommodations,” Ostrowski said. “They are asking for a dramatic change of events late in the game that is going to cause significant hardship to hundreds of people.”

Richelew countered that the district and school leadership moved the goalposts and could’ve worked with Minaleah Koffron instead of fighting it out in court.

“It’s either too early or it’s too late. There’s no process here. And they just want to blame an 18-year-old student instead of working with them,” Richelew explained. “Why is there no other case law on this? Because schools normally work with their students. They care, (but) this school district doesn’t seem to care.”

Minaleah Koffron’s father, Mike Koffron, in a statement to News 8 said he is “devastated.”

“I sympathize with any family that was worried and I’m glad for them that they’ll all be able to attend graduation, but I’m devastated that my daughter has to miss her own graduation; however, this is just one part of a larger case with a pattern of discrimination, so we’re upset, but we’re still looking forward to hopefully reaching a long term resolution that will prevent anything like this from happening again,” he said.

Judge Curtis Bell, who is the 9th Judicial Circuit Court Judge, said it was a difficult decision that had “no good outcome.”

Repeating a stance made by a federal judge, Bell said, “there is no right that an individual has to attend graduation and schools can schedule regardless of which holidays they may interfere with.”

“The court is in a very difficult position, because I certainly sympathize with the plaintiff in this case and certainly respect her position, her religious beliefs, how she wants to adhere to those and will adhere to those,” Bell added. “But I also have to consider the individuals who are also students and how this would affect their outcome in terms of their ability in total to participate.”

On Friday, the case was split between federal and the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court. A federal judge will hear the First Amendment arguments and the county judge will hear the state court claims, including how the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act applies to the First Amendment.

The first federal court hearing is scheduled for April 20.

The attorney representing Minaleah Koffron released a statement about the decision:

“Everyone should be uncomfortable with today’s outcome. A student who worked hard to graduate from high school is being denied her right to attend graduation because of her religion. But this is just one issue in a much larger case about necessary policy changes within this district so that no Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or other minority has to suffer the way that Miss Koffron has.  The right result now would be a swift and lasting resolution creating strong and transparent processes to ensure that no other minority is ever discriminated against in this way again, which is what the Koffron family has been trying to achieve for over a decade.” 

Minaleah Koffron’s attorney, Marla Linderman Richelew