Barry, there’s a troubling situation in Kentucky – in a middle school – where police were actually called to the school after students – are you ready for this – where students were actually praying!
That’s right. A student at a middle school in Kentucky was told she could not pray with her classmates before and after classes and during lunch.
The situation arose after the mother of a student who attends the school was killed in a tragic accident. Many students gathered at school the next day between classes to pray for the family. Some teachers told the students to stop praying immediately.
At lunchtime, students gathered to pray again. Someone from the school called the police and officers arrived at the school to investigate. Some students who prayed between classes and during lunch were called to the principal’s office and told that prayer was not allowed at the school.
After many students and parents complained, and the local news media began to investigate what had happened, the school decided the next day to allow the students to pray. Some teachers stated that the students should not have been allowed to pray on campus, however, and it is unclear whether student-led, student-initiated prayer will be permitted in the future.
We have sent a demand letter to the school – spelling out the law and explaining that preventing students from praying was a gross overreaction and a violation of the First Amendment. We cited numerous Supreme Court cases and United States Department of Education guidelines that protect the right of students to pray and discuss religious topics on campus on the same terms that other students may discuss non-religious subjects. For example, in Morse v. Frederick, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that public schools may censor student expression just because it may offend other students, noting that “much political and religious speech might be perceived as offensive to some” yet it is constitutionally protected. 127 S. Ct. 2618, 2629 (2007).
Our letter also cited the Board of Education v. Mergens – a case we successfully argued before the high court in 1990 – a decision which states that “secondary school students are mature enough and are likely to understand that a school does not endorse or support student speech that it merely permits on a nondiscriminatory basis. The proposition that schools do not endorse everything they fail to censor is not complicated.” 496 U.S. 226, 250 (1990) (emphasis added).
This school district needs a lesson in the First Amendment. Barry, do you agree?
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