FFRF stops religious instruction by Kindergarten teachers in North Carolina school

FFRF halted an egregious public school violation involving a kindergarten teacher leading students in prayer every day before lunch in Edgecombe Public Schools [Tarboro, N.C.]. The violation was first discovered when the complainant’s five-year-old child came home from school singing the following (to the tune of “Frere Jacques”):

“God, our father,
God, our father,
Once again,
Once again,
We will ask a blessing,
We will ask a blessing,
Amen, Amen.”

Rebecca Market, FFRF senior staff attorney, wrote a strong letter requesting the superintendent “commence an immediate investigation into this allegation and take prompt action to halt prayers occurring at public schools in your district. . . . Your school district should make certain that its teachers are not unlawfully and inappropriately indoctrinating students in religious matters. While acting in their official role as public school teachers, and while they are present in classroom or public school, teachers may not pray with students. Courts have upheld the termination of teachers who do.” Markert also pointed out that this practice violates the district’s own policy, which states clearly, “The school system and its employees shall not conduct, sponsor, or endorse any form of religious indoctrination or exercise, including prayer, at school functions.”

The parent complainant notified FFRF that in November, the prayer song practice had ended. FFRF followed up with letters in December and February, and finally received a response from the Stocks Elementary School principal in February, which was a letter he had apparently directed to the superintendent in October. The forwarded letter noted that FFRF’s letter had been shared with the school’s seven Kindergarten teachers. The teachers reviewed and discussed relevant case law and board policies on Oct. 12, 2010, and “were directed to stop all prayer immediately in the Kindergarten classrooms at Stocks Elementary School. . . . All teachers will be reminded to immediately refrain from any expression of religious viewpoints and prayer in the classroom.” — Bonnie Gutsch

Freedom From Religion Foundation