KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A federal judge will hear only part of the lawsuit filed by a Portage Public Schools student, alleging its scheduling of graduation violated her right to practice her religion.
Portage Northern High School senior Minaleah Koffron sued the school because its graduation falls on May 26, which is also the Jewish holy day of Shavuot. Her lawyers have argued the district broke its own anti-discrimination policy, Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, Article 1 of the state constitution, and the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The school district had asked for the entire case to be moved to federal court. In his decision Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker said he will only listen to arguments about the First Amendment. He sent the state court claims — including how the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act applies to the First Amendment — back to the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court.
The Kalamazoo County Circuit Court has issued a temporary restraining order telling the school to move its graduation date while the case moves its way through the courts.
Jonker did not issue another temporary restraining order. He is giving the plaintiffs time to respond to a 1988 case the school cited, which he says “does not support the plaintiff’s theory.”
— News 8’s Nick Ponton and David Horak contributed to this report.