Page 19

Journal of Texas School Women Executives, Volume II, Issue 1 2013 By 2008 school prayer was ingrained into the Republican National Committee platform. “We will energetically assert the right of students to engage in voluntary prayer in schools and to have equal access to school facilities for religious purposes” (Committee On Arrangements for the 2008 Republican National Convention, p. 43). Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee stated, “I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards” (Mike Huckabee, GOP candidate for president, January 2008, as cited in Lugg & Robinson, p. 242). Government Support of Prayer in Schools President Bill Clinton commissioned the development of a statement of principles on religion in schools. The resulting document was entitled Religious Expression in Public Schools. The document was created in collaboration with “. . . many diverse groups representing the entire political spectrum and reflect a developing consensus on many key issues” (Riley, p. 15). The first two principles specifically addressed school prayer. One principle addressed student prayer and religious discussion and defended students’ First Amendments rights to participate in both secular and religious activities at school, read religious scriptures, and pray. The principle stated that while schools may not impose religion on students, they may not discriminate against religious activities (Riley, 1996). Generally, students may pray in a nondisruptive manner when not engaged in school activities or instruction, and subject to the rules that normally pertain in the applicable setting. Specifically, students in informal settings, such as cafeterias and hallways, may pray and discuss their religious views with each other, subject to the same rules of order as apply to other student activities and speech. Students may also speak to, and attempt to persuade, their peers about religious topics just as they do with regard to political topics. School officials, however, should intercede to stop student speech that constitutes harassment aimed at a student or a group of students. (Riley, p. 15) A second principle addressed graduation and baccalaureate ceremonies stating that schools must abide by the Supreme Court’s decision to refrain from endorsing or mandating prayer at graduation ceremonies, but must make school facilities available to religious groups as they are to other groups (Riley, 1996). The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) gave school leaders a longer leash regarding issues relating to the First Amendment. The United States Department of Education released a document in 2003 clarifying NCLB Section 9524. The document proclaimed the constitutionality of prayer in public schools and required every public school district or public school academy to declare in writing that it had no policies preventing prayer as a condition of receiving funds under the law. Funding could be revoked for failure to submit the required documentation (Edmonson, 2006). Taking a Stand Those who challenge the religious norm may suffer consequences for taking a stand. In 10

Profile for Texas Association of School Administrators

JTWSE—Volume 2  

JTWSE—Volume 2  

Profile for tasanet