Press Releases

Illinois Student Faces School Disciplinary Hearing for Refusing to Participate in Sexuality Program

February 2, 2021

News Release
For Immediate Release: 2.2.21
Contact: Lacey McNiel,
Direct: 972-941-4453

Illinois Student Faces School Disciplinary Hearing for Refusing to Participate in Sexuality Program

First Liberty Institute says school officials are illegally forcing student to participate in program that violates her religious beliefs

Aurora, IL—Today, First Liberty Institute sent a letter to the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (“IMSA”) demanding that it immediately approve senior Marcail McBride’s request for a religious accommodation exempting her from the school’s Student Gender and Sexuality Program.

You can read the letter, here.

“Under Illinois law, schools must provide religious accommodations for their students, and they must also honor requests to excuse students from programs with sexual content,” said Keisha Russell, Counsel to First Liberty Institute. “Schools should never violate the religious conscience of their students.  We hope President Torres ends the school administrators’ clearly unlawful behavior and protects the religious liberty of every student by granting an accommodation to the family.”

IMSA requires students to complete the Student Gender and Sexuality Program before graduation. Students must agree to both “stay engaged” and “experience discomfort” while participating in the program, which uses sexual language to identify sexual preferences and gender identity.  In November, Marcail’s parents notified IMSA leadership that Marcail could not participate in the program because it forces Marcail to violate her religious beliefs.  The IMSA leadership repeatedly denied the McBrides’ request and threatened to punish Marcail if she does not participate in the program.

According to attorneys with First Liberty, the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires IMSA to refrain from placing a substantial burden on the religious exercise of its students.  Additionally, Illinois law allows the McBrides to opt-out of any sexual education program.  The law states, “No pupil shall be required to take or participate in any class or course in comprehensive sex education if his parent or guardian submits written objection thereto, and refusal to take or participate in such course or program shall not be reason for suspension or expulsion of such pupil.”

Russell added, “The school is attempting to evade the law that allows parents to opt their children out of sexual education by claiming that discussions about sexuality are not sex education.  But the law is clear—the school is required to provide an accommodation to our client.”

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at or by calling 972-941-4453.

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