Written by Don Byrd
The Webster Parish School Board on Monday night voted to adopt a nine-page policy governing religious expression in public schools after a lawsuit claimed school officials routinely promoted religion in violation of the First Amendment. The policy seeks to “preserve and spell out student religious rights while ensuring Webster Parish school stay within the letter of the law,” according to a Minden Press-Herald report.
The policy addresses issues such as school employees participating in prayer or religious activity alongside students and the manner in which students who speak at official events may choose to reference religious themes during opening remarks.
Meanwhile, in nearby Bossier Parish, the school board will meet later this week to discuss a similar policy proposal. KTBS reports:
The proposed policy … bars school employees from participating in or encouraging prayers or expressing personal religious beliefs to students, but says employees can wear symbols of their faith.
[Board attorney Jon] Guice, who also represents the Webster Parish School Board, met with [parent plaintiff Christy] Cole’s attorneys and a federal judge Tuesday to discuss a settlement in the suit.
The settlement, if approved, would decide the case in favor of Cole and require the school system to follow court-required guidelines for prayer in schools, among them the new policy.
Both disputes seem headed for a settlement that will require the boards to adopt safeguards protecting student religious expression as well as protecting against the improper promotion of religion by school officials.