HARRISBURG (AP) — A Pennsylvania school district has agreed to remove a granite Ten Commandments monument from outside a high school and pay $164,000 in legal fees to settle a federal lawsuit.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation said it received a signed settlement Tuesday from the New Kensington-Arnold School District saying it will relocate the 6-foot-high monolith from near the gym entrance at Valley High School within 30 days.
“We’re very glad it’s over with, but honestly, it shouldn’t have been fought in the first place,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the foundation.
The district’s lawyer declined to comment, and the man who signed the release last week, Superintendent John Pallone, did not return messages. The school is in New Kensington, about 20 miles northeast of downtown Pittsburgh.
The challenge to the monument was filed in 2012 by a student and her atheist mother, Marie Schaub. The girl encountered the monument as she attended recreational events or dropped off her sister, a Valley High student at the time.
The district won a favorable decision in 2015 by a federal judge who said the girl had minimal contact with the monument because she was not a student at the school when the lawsuit was filed. But the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in August, leading to the settlement a mediator helped hammer out in early January.
“A community member like Schaub may establish standing by showing direct, unwelcome contact with the allegedly offending object or event, regardless of whether such contact is infrequent or she does not alter her behavior to avoid it,” the 3rd Circuit panel wrote.
The monument was donated to the district in 1956 by the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles. It includes an eagle, American flag, Star of David and a Masonic eye.
The foundation also was involved in a similar case, leading to the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from outside Connellsville Area Junior High School in 2015. That marker, also originally erected by the Eagles group, was reinstalled on the grounds of nearby Connellsville Church of God, making it visible to anyone who approaches the school.