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I.M. v. West Covina Unified School District

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 11, 2014

I. M., a minor by and through his parents ALEX MARTINEX and MYRNA MARTINEZ Plaintiff,
v.
WEST COVINA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT; GORDON PFITZER, individually and in his official capacity as an employee; SHERYL LESIKAR, individually and in her official capacity as an employee; DOES 1-20 Defendants.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION [20]

OTIS D. WRIGHT, II, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Last year, while a first grader at Merced Elementary School, I.M. wanted to hand out candy canes at his class Christmas party.[1] Attached to each candy cane was the "Legend of the Candy Cane"- a religious message explaining that Christmas is meant to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. The teacher, principal, and school district determined that the message was religious and therefore could not be distributed during the class Christmas party. This year, I.M. wants to hand out candy canes with the same message, but is concerned that he will again be denied permission. By and through his parents, I.M. filed the instant action and seeks a preliminary injunction forcing the West Covina School District to allow him to distribute candy canes with the message at this year's class Christmas party. For the reasons discussed below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.[2] (ECF No. 20.)

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On December 11, 2013, I.M.'s sister, Alexandra Cantu, shared with him the "Legend of the Candy Cane" ("Legend"), which states:

A candy maker wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the CHRISTmas Candy Cane to incorporate several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.
He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White, to symbolize the Virgin Birth, the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the church, and firmness of the promises of God.
The candy maker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our savior. It also represents the staff of the "Good Shepherd" with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.
The candy maker stained it with red stripes. He used the three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Jesus on the Cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life, if only we put our faith and trust in Him.
Unfortunately, the candy became known as a Candy Cane-a meaningless decoration seen at Christmas time. But the meaning is still there for those who "have eyes to see and ears to hear."
I pray that this symbol will again be used to witness to the Wonder of Jesus and His Great Love that came down at Christmas and remains the ultimate and dominant force in the universe today.

(Mot. 2.)

After hearing about the Legend, I.M. told his sister that he wanted to hand out candy canes with the Legend to his classmates to share his belief about Christmas with his friends. (I.M. Decl. ¶ 3.) He and his sister purchased candy canes, construction paper, and ribbon. ( Id. ¶ 5.) They printed the Legend, fastened it to decorative red paper, and tied it to each candy cane with a ribbon. ( Id. )

On December 13, 2013, I.M. attempted to hand out the candy canes with the Legend to his classmates. ( Id. ¶ 6.) He asked his teacher, Valerie Lu, for permission. ( Id. ) She said that she ...


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