A Florida high school freshman says he was bullied by students and school staffers alike for his open Christian faith and is now suing Miami’s Mater Academy for discrimination and defamation.
According to the complaint, Nicholas Ortiz says that “was discriminated and retaliated against by his high school … because he is a Christian” and was subject to “disparaging comments” from students and staffers over his practice of reading the Bible on school grounds.
Ortiz also says he was suspended for 10 days over false rumors that he was planning a school shooting and that several students planned to physically assault him as well; BizPac Review reports that the complaint includes screenshots of conversations to support this claim.
“Nicholas repeatedly made the school aware of a pattern of pervasive bullying by his fellow students, bullying that was reinforced by the words and actions of the school,” the complaint details. “Yet, the school did not just sweep Nicholas’s bullying claims under the rug — failing to report them as required under the law — they retaliated against Nicholas for reporting the harassment.”
The lawsuit also accuses the school of violating Ortiz’s First Amendment rights by repeatedly denying him “his constitutional right to due process, suspending him for the maximum time allowed for an allegation they knew was false, which is why they didn’t even talk to Nicholas before issuing the punishment.”
Our latest civil rights lawsuit, brought to you by Miami partner @MSarelson, schools litigation counsel @Karin_Sweigart — check it out! Miami Student Sues School for Discrimination for Christian Beliefs – Dhillon Law Group https://t.co/k9MER4P4t7
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) March 1, 2022
Ortiz is being represented by the law firm of Harmeet Dhillon, a high-profile attorney who has represented the conservative college campus group Young America’s Foundation, investigative journalist Andy Ngo, and a number of churches in their challenges to pandemic-related closures in 2020.
“Imagine being falsely accused of threatening to shoot up a school,” Matthew Sarelson, a partner at Dhillon’s firm, Dhillon Law Group, said in a press release. “Law enforcement concluded that he was being pranked by fellow students, but that did not stop numerous parents from spreading the false accusation online.
“The students who spread the false accusations against Mr. Ortiz were never disciplined in any way,” Sarelson added. “Only Mr. Ortiz was suspended, without due process and for no valid reason.”
The complaint alleges incidents of public mockery from students and teachers alike who disparaged his belief in God and the Bible.
His parents are seeking “significant” damages for what they describe as the destruction of his educational experience.
“Mr. Ortiz is experiencing something that no American should ever have to experience,” Dhillon said. “It’s bad enough that the school has done nothing to stop the bullying from his peers, but have gone as far as joining in on targeting Mr. Ortiz for simply practicing his faith.”
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