March 17, 2007

Suspended for praying or for blocking traffic?

The story of the 12 Heritage High School students' suspensions after they prayed in the school's corridors is probably going to become an urban legend.  

According to the story in the Columbian, the students prayed in the class's corridors, and administrators asked them to move to a room so they wouldn't block traffic. Administrators claim that because the students refused a legitimate request made out of concern for safety, it was the insubordination that was the cause of the suspension. Students claim that the administrators' real reason was because other students complained about the praying, not the traffic-blocking.

According to the 1995 Joint Statement of Current Law on Religion in the Public Schools, groups with different views on church-state relations agree on students' right to pray: "In informal settings, such as the cafeteria or in the halls, students may pray either audibly or silently, subject to the same rules of order as apply to other speech in these locations."

I know nothing about the layout of Heritage High School, but I suspect a good deal of this depends on whether there is any broad open space such as a courtyard instead of confined hallways. If there is, administrators should have suggested moving the prayer group there instead of a classroom. If there isn't, then it looks like there would be no feasible non-classroom public space for praying on school grounds without disrupting traffic.

But this is already being blown out of proportion. The linked article quotes Liberty Counsel president Anita Staver as saying, "It is absolutely outrageous that the school allowed one Satanist student to exercise a heckler's veto over the other students' speech." Way to go on civility, Anita.

Listen to this article
Posted in Education policy on March 17, 2007 7:42 AM |