The family of a white teen-age girl expelled two years ago from a Northern Virginia fundamentalist Christian school for fraternizing with a black youth has reached an $18,000 out-of-court settlement with the school's principal.
The family originally had sought $70,000 in damages from Aleck Lee Bledsoe, principal of the Marumsco Christian School in Woodbridge and pastor of the Marumsco Baptist Church, who had forbidden the girl from associating with a black classmate because he said it violated the school's biblical principles.
A court ruling in favor of Bledsoe was overturned last fall by a U.S. appeals court in Richmond.
An American Civil Liberties Union attorney for the family, Victor M. Glasberg, said yesterday that papers filed Friday in Alexandria's U.S. District Court included provisions protecting the settlement from Bledsoe's efforts to declare personal bankruptcy and allowing the parents to enroll their children at the school again if they wished.
The case attracted widespread attention when Bledsoe contended he was correct in dismissing Melissa Fiedler, then 14, on religious grounds. He argued that the school, as a private institution, had "a perfect right to expel" students engaged in "interracial dating."
The Fiedlers, whose daughter Charlotte also was expelled when the family threatened to sue the school, called Bledsoe's beliefs "poppycock" and argued he had denied their daughters an "integrated education."
U.S. District Court Judge Oren R. Lewis ruled that Bledsoe had a First Amendment right to run the school according to religious beliefs that interracial dating and marriage are banned by scripture. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, disagreed, saying Bledsoe's action was based not on stated school or church tenets, but on his personal preferences.
The school since has been reorganized, reportedly because of heavy losses in enrollment suffered since the Fiedler suit was brought. The Fiedlers have moved to Stafford County and enrolled their daughters in public schools there because of harassment in Prince William County public schools, their attorney said.
Dead cats had been left on thhe family's driveway, Glasberg said, and the children had been verbally accosted in school.