Abby Moler is getting the chance to pass on two lessons to her classmates: You can fight City Hall, and you can enlist unexpected sources for help.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan -- often known for helping to keep religion out of schools -- announced a settlement Tuesday with Utica Community Schools that reinstates Moler's religious message in the yearbook.

Moler, who was a class of 2001 valedictorian at Stevenson High School in Sterling Heights, was among a group of high-achieving students school officials asked to submit a few words to pass on to their classmates for the yearbook.

She used a biblical verse, Jeremiah 29:11: " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "

The entry was cut from the yearbook; school officials told her at the time that it was because it was religious.

So Moler enlisted the ACLU's aid.

"We wanted to shed some light on this issue in the public schools," Moler said. "There just seemed to be a lot of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding this issue."

Under the settlement, Utica schools agreed to place a sticker with Moler's chosen words in copies of the yearbook on file at the school and to not censor other students who want to put in religious or political statements.

Avoiding a trial, the district also agreed to train its staff on free speech and religious-freedom issues, and to write Moler a letter of regret.

"I'm thrilled," Moler said Tuesday. "We got everything we asked for. I received a wonderful education from Utica schools and now that I'm entering the teaching profession, I wanted to do my part in maintaining the excellence in education."

Utica school officials do not comment on lawsuits, said spokeswoman Hildy Corbett.

The settlement doesn't set a court precedent, but it does provide an example, ACLU officials said.

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