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Article Specs

VxAcct: 1

Article ID: 2368

Section: cases

Age Group: Adult

Posted: May 20th. 1999

Views: 24873

Panorama Middle School

by Wren

Studying Bigotry:

 Panorama Middle School Vice-principal's Lecture On The "evils Of Witchcraft" A Lesson In Historical Ignorance

The Witches' Voice today issued a statement condemning the remarks made by administrators at the Panorama Middle School in Colorado Springs in regards to their investigation of eight students for reading a book on Witchcraft and rumored to be "casting spells."

"Vice-Principal Joan Abrahamsen's questioning of the girls for more than two hours on their 'beliefs and participation in witchcraft' not only demonstrates the school district's ignorance of modern pagan religions, it further continues to perpetuate the stereotype of Witches and Witchcraft as deviants in society," stated TWV Chairperson, Rev. Wren Walker.

Belief in the innate immorality or 'evil' of Witches and other pagans, buttressed by selected scriptural references, has throughout the centuries formed the basis for discrimination, intolerance, acts of violence, illegal prosecution and death by burning, hanging or torture.

The practice of modern Witchcraft/Paganism no more leads to self or socially destructive behavior than the practice of any other religion. To be singled out in this fashion is a violation of our civil rights and certainly sets a bad example of the democratic process for students.

While we are sure that the intention of the administrative staff of Panorama and the Harrison School District is to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for all children from diverse backgrounds and beliefs, they should be aware that pagan children are also undoubtedly attending public schools in their district. Children who come from pagan homes, or who have adopted Witchcraft, Wicca or other pagan paths as a religious choice, would find such 'inquisitions' into their beliefs emotionally painful and psychologically damaging.

On April 15, 1999 the Harrison District School Board in its strategic plan revision process approved as part of its mission statement certain policies. According to the Harrison School District Two Board of Education web site (, objective #2 of these 'Governing Values and Objectives' states:

"We will model respect and sensitivity for diverse individuals and groups through equitable programs, policies and practices for students, staff, parents and our community."

Witches and other pagans are guaranteed their religious freedom under the same First and Fourteenth Amendments as any other religion in the United States. In addition, The Equal Access Act requires accommodation of religious belief-including those who follow Wicca or Witchcraft as a religion. The Wiccan religion has been recognized in United States courts and by the United States Army Chaplain's Handbook.

The Witches' Voice strongly recommends that the Harrison District School Board censure Vice-Principal Joan Abrahamsen for her inappropriate handling of the situation, lack of proper parental notification and for this flagrant violation of its own stated governing goals and objectives.


Rev. Wren Walker
Chairperson-The Witches' Voice, Inc.

Contact Information:


The Witches' Voice, Inc.
P.O. Box 4924
Clearwater, FL 33758-4924
Contact: Rev. Wren Walker
Web Site:

W.A.D.L. Press Release
May 14, 1999
For Immediate Release:

Clifford O. Brookhart, Ed.D.
Harrison School District Two
Superintendent of Schools
Harrison School District
1060 Harrison Rd.
Colorado Springs, CO 80906-3586

Greetings Dr. Brookhart,

I read with interest the article published in The Denver Post about Vice-Principal Joan Abrahamsen, who pulled 12 year old students out of class twice and questioned them at length about their involvement in Witchcraft.

Upon rereading the article it would appear that neither the educator in question nor the Principle, Rich Hayes, is aware of your District's Policy on diversity, nor the Equal Access Act of 1995. For example your published Mission Statement asserts, in part:


· diversity; everyone is equally respected and accepted.


Objective #2: We will model respect and sensitivity for diverse individuals and groups through equitable programs, policies and practices for students, staff, parents and our community.

Objective #4: To enhance the students' learning environment and the workplace, the district will increase the number of diverse employees through the improvement of recruitment, hiring, and retention."

As President of The Witches Anti-Discrimination League, (WADL) I must protest the manner in which this has been, handled. In Lincoln Park Michigan, WADL stood with Crystal Seifferly and The ACLU in a case involving the rights of students to follow the Religion of their choice, ( Seifferly v. Lincoln Park Public Schools, Case No. 99-CV-60070-DT). We are prepared to do the same here, and in every school district in The Nation, if necessary, in order to assure the rights of students to follow the religious faith of their choice.

I would suggest your Board Attorneys research the following cases and then advise you on the validity of Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism as religions recognized and protected under The Constitution of The United States, and upon the rights of students to bring their thoughts and ideas to school:

    Seifferly v. Lincoln Park Public Schools, No. 99-CV-60070-DT (1999)
    Tinker v. Des Moines School District 393 U.S. 503 (1969)
    Church of the Lukumi Babaluaye v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993)

We request a public apology be issued to all students be issued from your office, the Principal and the Vice Principal. We also suggest that a sensitivity training program be put in place for Administrators and Teachers to assure that no further incidents of this type occur.

In Our Lady and Our Lord,

Steve Foster
President, Witches Anti-Discrimination League
PO Box 821
Connersville, IN 47331-0821

W.A.D.L. on the Web
cc: ACLU of Colorado
400 Corona Street
Denver, Colorado 80218

Cara DeGette, Denver Post

The Gazette
Letters of Protest...
Letter To Denver Post
by Dana Eilers (

To Whom it may Concern,

As an attorney and as a practicing witch, I read with regret Cara DeGette's article regarding the actions of a vice principal at Panorama Middle School and his lecturing of students there on "the evils of witchcraft."

Wicca/witchcraft is a legitimate religion, deserving of First Amendment protection and specifically recognized by the United States federal courts. The seminal case is Dettmer v. Landon, 617 F. Supp. 592 (Dst.Ct. East. Dst. Va. 1985) and affirmed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals at 799 F.2d 929 (4th Cir. 1986). The United States Supreme Court has specifically recognized the validity of another form of Paganism: Santeria, which is an amalgamation of traidtional African nature religions practiced by the Yoruban people and some elements of Roman Catholicism in the case of Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. and Ernesto Pichardo v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993). Therein, the United States Supreme Court asserted: "...we have often stated the principle that the First Amendment forbids an official purpose to disapprove of a particular religion or of religion in general." Id., at 533.

The actions of the school administration in this case are clearly prohibited by the United States Constitution and the federal case law. In April of 1999, a seventeen year old witch in Lincoln Park, Michigan mounted a successful challenge to her high school's policy which prohibited her from wearing the symbol of her Wiccan faith: the pentacle. That case was litigated in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan: Siefferly v. Lincoln Park Public Schools, Cause No. 99-CV-60070-DT. Therein, the high school Plaintiff was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, and the Defendant School District settled the case, which settlement included the payment by the School District of $14,000 in Plaintiff's legal fees.

The actions of the vice principal and those of the school administration at Panorama Middle School would not be tolerated had the vice principal pulled Jewish students from class and lectured them for nearly two hours on the evils of Judaism. It would not be tolerated had this been done to Catholic students, Hindu students, Buddhist students, etc. There is no legitimate reason for it to be tolerated by Wiccan students or students of Witchcraft.

This sort of action by the school administration falls within the realm of actions proscribed by the United States Constitution and should not be tolerated.

Sincerely yours,

Dana D. Eilers, Attorney

To The Denver Post:

While reading your paper online, I was shocked to see this article. It is frightening to think that school administrators would be allowed to continually question the eight girls about their beliefs in witchcraft. Their beliefs, especially religious beliefs, are none of the administrators' business. The principal in this case, and the assistant principal, violated the individual rights of those girls.

The paranoia that has become rampant in schools since the shooting at Littleton has made life difficult for those students that are different. I shudder to think what my school life would have been like if I had been in school this year (I am currently attending university.) Being one of those kids who was "different" was difficult enough as it was. I cannot imagine being singled out because I was a witch, or believed in something other than a mainstream religion. With the way things seem to be heading, I'm sure I would have been sent to a counselor's office for a talk because of the way I dressed, and the pentragram that I wore.

I hope that the girls involved in this case win at least an apology from the school district. Something like this shows a lack of tolerance and understanding for those who have different beliefs from the mainstream.

Silver RavenCat (
Calgary, AB Canada

Contact Information:
Reference May 14th Article: "School Accuses Girls of Witchery"


    1060 HARRISON RD
    COLORADO SPRINGS CO 80906-3586
    Phone: (719) 579-2000
    Internet address: (
    Contact:Harrison School District Two Superintendent of Schools: Clifford O. Brookhart, Ed.D.


    2145 S CHELTON RD
    COLORADO SPRINGS CO 80916-2596
    Phone: (719) 591-2570
    Rich Hayes ­Principal

    Mail: Letters to the Editor

    The Denver Post
    1560 Broadway
    Denver, 80202

    • E-mail: letters@
    • Phone: 303.820.1331
    • Fax: 303.820.1502

    Denver Rocky Mountain News
    400 W. Colfax
    Denver, CO 80204
    Phone: 303-892-5000

    Letters To the Editor:
    Reference May 15th Article: Students 'Degraded' For 'Spells'

    Letter guidelines- The Post welcomes letters of up to 200 words on topics of general interest. Letters must include full name, home address and day and evening phone numbers. All letters may be edited for length, grammar and accuracy.



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