Platte County School District is affirming students’ right to pray in school after an incident this year drew the attention of a national Christian legal advocacy group.
In October, some students formed a prayer circle in Glendo High School’s cafeteria. Administrators say a parent lunch monitor and the school principal told the students to pray elsewhere because of concerns about separation of church and state.
But Superintendent Dennis Fischer says—after consulting the district’s attorney—he found that the lunchroom prayer was appropriate and within students’ rights provided under federal law.
“Now people need to understand, we’ve never had a ban on prayer in any of our schools in the district,” says Fischer. “In this situation, it was just a lack of information that we had told the students that they couldn’t do it in the lunch room. So, we’ve never banned it. Whether it appropriate or was not appropriate in that place was something we had to talk to additional people about.”
The clarification came after the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom threatened legal action against the school district.
Last week, the district sent a letter to Alliance Defending Freedom, informing the group that the incident had been dealt with. Fischer says school staff are now better informed about students' right to pray.
“The additional discussion about the Equal Access Act has been good for our district from the standpoint point that everybody is aware of what rights students do have,” says Fischer. “I believe that people error on the side of keeping church and state separate too much—being too cautious regarding this.”
Fischer says students at Glendo High School have since hosted prayer circles in the cafeteria.