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Full appeals court to hear Elmbrook graduation arguments

Feb. 8, 2012

The full panel of judges on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Feb. 9 to decide whether it was constitutional for the Elmbrook School District to hold its high school graduations at Elmbrook Church for the better part of the last decade.

The granting of a full review is a victory for Americans United, which filed a suit on behalf of nine unnamed district families who said the environment made them feel unwelcome and uncomfortable.

A three-member panel of the Court of Appeals in September, 2011, ruled in Elmbrook's favor.

"Public school students and parents should not be forced to spend hours in an intensely religious environment in order to attend their own graduations," said Alex J. Luchenitser, American United's legal director. "I look forward to presenting our arguments to the Court of Appeals."

Brookfield Central held its graduation ceremonies at Elmbrook Church from 2000 to 2009. Brookfield East held its graduations there from 2002 to 2009.

Elmbrook Superintendent Matt Gibson said the decision to move graduations to the church came about because students at both schools felt that auditorium facilities were inadequate for larger crowds.

Facilities studies from 2001 to 2007 resulted in a failed referendum in 2007. A 2008 referendum was successful and graduations returned to each school in 2010.

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