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Teen Witches On TV, But In Oklahoma?

Brandi Blackbear is not the first high-school girl to find herself the subject of a vicious rumor. But she’s probably the first to be suspended for it. It started in December 1999, when Blackbear, then 15, an aspiring writer and bookworm, was reading up on Wicca and drew a pentagram on her hand. Soon after, the gossip went whizzing through the halls of Union Intermediate High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma: she’d put a hex on a teacher. The rumor probably would have fizzled out like a teen crush, but the teacher actually fell ill that evening and had to be hospitalized. The next day, assistant principal Charles Bushyhead asked Blackbear point-blank, “Are you a witch?” and, according to Blackbear, accused her of inflicting sickness by way of magic. She was suspended for 15 days and told not to wear any Wiccan symbols to school. “I thought it was pretty far out,” says Blackbear. So did the American Civil Liberties Union. On October 26, 2000, it filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf, charging that school officials had violated her civil rights, including her freedom of speech, religion, and right to due process–maybe the first U.S. lawsuit ever involving accusations of witchcraft. Blackbear says the ordeal has squelched her curiosity about Wicca, but she still wants to be a writer. In fact, this witch-hunt has not only given Blackbear an early lesson in constitutional law, but also her first freelance assignment: a personal essay for Seventeen.

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