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Jewish Student Granted Restraining Order Against Michigan High School

InterimPNHS Principal Nat Ledlow

A circuit court judge granted a temporary restraining order against Portage Northern High School (PNHS) for reportedly scheduling Graduation Day this year on Shavuot, a Jewish holiday that celebrates when God gave the Jewish people the Torah.

The lawsuit, filed by a senior at the school, states the student is unable to attend graduation because her faith requires her to observe the holiday on May 26.

18-year-old Minaleah Koffron filed the lawsuit claiming the district violated the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, the Michigan Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

FOX 17 obtained court documents that explain for the last decade, the Koffron family had given the school advance notice of Jewish holidays, including the dates of Shavuot.

In the documents, Saraphoena Koffron, Minaleah’s mother, explains that for years, that advanced notice included letters, phone calls and even meetings with Portage Public Schools.

The court filing goes on to say the Koffrons repeatedly tried to work with school officials, but PNHS claimed they were unable to change the graduation date.

The documents show that during a March 3 meeting, interim principal Nate Ledlow even said he was concerned about getting “300 angry emails” from other parents. But, in that same meeting, Ledlow did tell the Koffrons that he would inquire about other dates and expenses.

However, on March 8, the documents allege Ledlow admitted to the family that he never actually intended to make those inquiries, adding that while he does have the authority to change the date, he wouldn’t without an order from the superintendent.

Koffron says she previously missed other school events due to conflicts with the Jewish calendar, including prom her junior year because it fell on the first day of Passover.

The lawsuit asserts the school’s alleged refusal to accommodate the student’s religious needs is a “clear” act of discrimination and a violation of her constitutional rights.

In a statement, Minaleah says the school’s actions make her feel like a “lesser citizen.”

“Whether the adults in this district realize what message they were/are sending or not, the message was and remains clear— my religious identity is not as important as the identities of Christian kids at my school. In the eyes of the school district, I am a lesser citizen.”

Minaleah writes, “Even if the decision to schedule graduation on a Jewish holy day was an oversight, the decision to keep it is not.”

The documents also go on to explain that Miller Auditorium, where the graduation is set to be held, had alternate dates available that same week and any changes would not result in additional fees.

The judge granted the temporary restraining order Wednesday; however, FOX 17 learned Thursday evening that the case appears to be headed to federal court.