By Molly Hanson
A couple of community members contacted FFRF to report that two constitutional violations took place within the Corpus Christi Independent School District. After a Miller High School football game in Corpus Christi, Texas, players and coaches had congregated in the middle of the field to recite the “Lord’s Prayer.”
FFRF was also informed that teachers at Woodlawn Elementary took students on a field trip to a pumpkin patch at Asbury United Methodist Church. After exploring the patch, the students were gathered for a proselytizing storytime session, led by a church volunteer who read books that included pictures of pumpkins decorated with the Latin cross and a “Jesus fish.” Students were told that the cross represented Jesus, that Jesus died on the cross for everyone’s sins, that Jesus is “our Messiah” and other Christian stories.
In a letter to the school district, FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover warned the district superintendent against the constitutional violations.
On Nov. 13, a letter from a legal representative of the district informed FFRF that the principals and administrators had been reminded of the policies and laws of the school district.
Religious decor removed from elementary school
Religious decor is no longer on display in Ricardo Elementary School in Kingsville, Texas, thanks to FFRF. Action was taken after FFRF received a complaint from a concerned parent that a wreath with a Latin cross on it was hanging on the school’s office door.
FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote to the district superintendent asking that the district investigate the situation and ensure that its employees were not impermissibly promoting personal religious beliefs while acting on behalf of the district.
A legal representative of the school district informed FFRF on Nov. 20 that the wreath had been taken down.
Coaches no longer will See You at the Pole
FFRF learned that a football and track coach at Anna High School in Texas had participated in a See You at the Pole event on school property in September, which opened with prayer. Additionally, the school was advertising a See You at the Pole event in the banner of its webpage.
See You at the Pole is a Christian-oriented prayer rally organized each year around a bible verse. FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote to Superintendent Pete Slaughter on Oct. 27, informing him that the high school created the appearance that the district unconstitutionally endorses the event’s Christian message. Furthermore, the coach’s actions violated the Equal Access Act, which mandates that school staff may not participate in religious events with students.
Slaughter responded on Nov. 3 writing that he had addressed the violation with the coach.
FFRF nixes Jesus from Texas school
A parent of a student in the Weatherford Independent School District in Texas reported to FFRF that a religious club called “Kids Beach Club” was permitted to set up a table to advertise during a recent open house event at Crockett Elementary.
The table had information, fliers and a banner reading, “Make Jesus Cool at School.” The club describes itself as a ministry “established to mobilize the church to go outside its walls in order to take the message of Christ in into the heart of its community.”
FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote to Superintendent Jeffrey Hanks in a Nov. 7 legal letter.
“It should not be abused by outside organizations as an opportunity to proselytize children and promote private clubs to families, many of whom do not subscribe to Kids Beach Club’s religious message,” Grover stated.
A legal representative of the school district responded on Nov. 20, saying the district had retrained its administrative staff on board policies.
FFRF halts Texas school prayer walk
It was brought to FFRF’s attention that Summer Creek High School in Houston hosted a “prayer walk” on Sept. 10 at the school to commemorate its recent merger with Kingwood High School. The official Summer Creek High School page had promoted the event under the slogan “Two Schools. One God.”
FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote to the school district on Oct. 11, informing the district that prayer walks entangle public schools with a religious message.
An attorney representing the district responded on Oct. 23, informing FFRF that the two Facebook posts advertising the event were removed from the Summer Creek High School newsfeed and that action had been taken by administrators to address the violation.
Standing up for a right to remain seated
A concerned student contacted FFRF to report that teachers within Earl Warren High School in San Antonio had been singling out students who chose not to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance and forcing them to stand during the recitation. FFRF wrote on Nov. 10 asking the district to tell its employees that they cannot force students to observe the pledge.
Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Administration Stephen Daniel responded on Nov. 17, saying the situation would be resolved immediately.