Skip to comments.12 Washington State High School Students Suspended for Public Prayer Group
Posted on 03/07/2007 7:48:42 AM PST by csistrueblue
12 Washington State High School Students Suspended for Public Prayer Group
By Gudrun Schultz
VANCOUVER, Washington, March 6, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A number of students who formed an interdenominational prayer group at a Washington state high school were expelled by the administration last week over their refusal to hold a morning prayer session in a closed room, The Columbian reported March 2.
Twelve students at Heritage High School in Vancouver, WA, were suspended last Friday after continuing to meet for morning prayer in the commons area of the school, despite a faculty order that they stop causing physical "disruption" to student traffic with public prayer.
To express concerns, contact:
Heritage High School 7825 NE 130th Avenue, Vancouver, WA 98682
Phone: (360) 604-3400
Principal: Anne Sosky email@example.com
Because they can?? And your wrong about employees coming along and breaking up people gabbing at Costco. They don't police patrol the aisles. At least in the ones I've shopped at.
Make no mistake, the battle is about Christianity vs Hedionism.
Do we have a clue here as to how hard it is for loyal Patriotic, Christians to work in the public schools? Yet most here want to allow these administrators to fire incompetent teachers. Care to guess who those incompetent teachers would be?
Why in the world are you comparing shopping at Costco with kids at a public school?
Hmmmm. Now there's a stupid comment.
Sounds like it was maximum of 12 students participating in the prayer group. Given that they were meeting before 7AM in the school cafeteria, it's hard to imagine how that could have been significantly blocking traffic. From what the prinicpal told reporters, it sounds as if the prayer aspect was the key issue, not the blocking traffic issue.
I agree. I think you would have to know how disruptive they are.
More like the back of the bus. How can 12 people block the flow of trafic in the Commons area, that is not a hallway?
I couldn't tell from the posted article whether the 12 suspended were the whole group, or just the ones who refused to stop/move after being asked to. From the other article that I posted a link to, it's pretty clear that there were only 12.
Remote location is an issue only if it distinctly different from the locations offered to favored groups. If most student groups are given rooms in a central area of the school, with which all students are familiar, and which has high foot traffic which would tend to publicize the existence of the groups, and the prayer group is offered a room in an area where most students rarely if ever go, that would be a problem (like on a hall with administrative offices that have no student contact, or in an overflow trailer classroom on the perimeter of the campus). A lot of high schools are VERY large these days, often with multiple buildings.
Friday, March 02, 2007
By HOWARD BUCK, Columbian Staff Writer
A dust-up over group prayers in the Heritage High School commons before the start of school triggered the suspension of a dozen students on Friday.
It also quickly threatened to fan up into a broader skirmish in the culture war.
By days end, pagans, Satanists and religious freedom were words in play, and a Florida-based group affiliated with Jerry Falwell had announced it would defend the students.
A top Evergreen Public Schools administrator downplayed the incident but confirmed that 12 pupils were disciplined after they ignored a faculty order to stop meeting for prayer in the commons area at the 2,200-student high school near Orchards, one of Clark Countys largest schools.
A praying student ordered to detention on Friday said two group co-leaders received 10-day suspensions, while eight others were given three-day suspensions. They had been warned on Thursday not to meet again in the commons, she said.
Bill Bentley, an Evergreen assistant superintendent who oversees Heritage, said pupils were warned days ago that their informal morning prayer sessions were blocking traffic in the crowded commons. Other students complained to school faculty about the prayers, he said.
Heritage administrators offered use of a classroom to the group, per written district policy that allows religious or other student clubs to use school facilities during non-school hours, with limited supervision.
Bentley said it was the physical disruption of the prayer group inside the busy campus corridor and open defiance of faculty orders that earned the suspensions, not the prayers themselves.
No one gets suspended because they pray. This is a story of some kids who chose to defy a legitimate request by administrators to not disrupt other students, Bentley said.
Per privacy rules, he would not elaborate on details of the suspensions.
School officials had contacted several parents and youth pastors to explain the situation. That allowed word to spread. On Friday, the media quickly latched onto the story. One Portland television crew reportedly came to Heritage to interview students.
Also, the Orlando, Fla.-based Liberty Counsel, which is affiliated with Jerry Falwell and his conservative, religious Liberty University in southern Virginia, issued a news release declaring it would defend the Heritage students.
It is absolutely outrageous that the school allowed one Satanist student to exercise a hecklers veto over the other students speech, said Anita L. Staver, Liberty Counsel president. Liberty Counsel describes itself as a nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family.
Bentley called the entire flap a non-story.
Im positive there was also some outside influence on this. There were some folks pushing to make this an issue that arent part of our Evergreen community, he said.
Bentley said leaders of the prayer group had been given a district brochure that lists Students Rights of Religious Expression and Practice. The guide cites the right of student-initiated religious clubs to gain access to facilities and media on the same basis as other student clubs. Evergreen policy also allows students to individually pray unobtrusively at any time, so long as it does not interfere with normal school instruction.
But a member of the loose, multi-faith group disciplined on Friday said it doesnt want club designation, nor to be pushed to a secluded classroom.
Junior student Megan Gaultier, 16, who first joined the prayers on Thursday, said the 10-to-15 minute, standing prayer circles, where students held hands and prayed softly in one portion of the commons-cafeteria area, were purposely low-key.
When one student Gaultier described as pagan objected to their prayers but in a respectful manner, the group obliged by moving elsewhere, Gaultier said. But four or five students complained to administrators, apparently forcing the crackdown, she said. The prayer group had not yet decided whether to accept an alternate site by Friday, when members were pulled aside and suspended, she said.
Were not bothering anybody. If were not preaching and passing out fliers, why cant we do it? Gaultier said. Basically, there are just the pagans who are against it. She identified herself as Baptist, while several Russian Orthodox students, a Methodist and a Catholic formed the roughly week-old group, she said.
The prayer circles purpose is visibility, to give other shy students the strength to express their faith, Gaultier said. If were in a secluded room, they cant just join in as she had, Gaultier said. Group members friends have prayed at other Vancouver and Evergreen high schools without a hassle, she said.
Kathryn Murdock, attorney for Vancouver Public Schools, said prayer groups likely were active in Vancouver district high schools. Students right to freedom of expression is honored when its not distracting, a point she has long hammered home in staff training sessions, she said.
If theyre not intimidating other kids, if theyre not being coercive, they would be allowed to continue in their prayer, Murdock said. If pre-, post-school or lunchtime group prayers grow disruptive because of outsider taunting, the problem is with the students doing the taunting, and those are the students that need to be dealt with, she said.
Neither Gaultier nor Bentley said heckling occurred at Heritage. Gaultier said assistant principals were supportive and had stayed calm despite the sanctioning.
Evergreen policies fall completely in line with common public school practice, Bentley said. There was no bias against the praying students, he repeated.
Theyre in the middle of a very busy area, grouped together, so others couldnt get around, he said. Other kids cannot avoid it. Thats not appropriate, whether theyre praying or whatever theyre doing.
You are kidding, Muslims already have private prayer rooms in many schools, check New York City.
Agree, from other report I've read, the group petitioned to form a bible club-like prayer group but were denied.
Were they using a Koran or Bible?
If only that were true, I am a regular Costco shopper, and can attest that this has never happened where I shop. Rudest customers in the world, both on the parking lot and the shopping isles.
The headline makes it look as if the prayer was the issue - it wasn't. There are enough LEGITIMATE cases of schools and other public organizations showing an anti-Christian bias to not have to make something out of a case that's not rooted in that.
Presumably. The article just posted above implies that the trigger for adminstrative action was a handful of student complaints about the content of the activity, not about "blocking traffic". If an anti-war group of a dozen students had made a habit of gathering in the cafeteria of the 2200 student school for 10-15 minutes in the morning, before the school start time of 7AM, to share the latest stories of "innocent Iraqis killed by American soldiers", who, would they have been told they had to relocate the activity to an assigned room? Of would their argument that it was important to "make other students aware of the issues" have sufficed for administrators who happened to agree.
Frankly, in a school this size, I have some trouble believing this is the first time that a group of a dozen or students has made a habit of hanging out together in the cafeteria for a little while in the mornings before school started.