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Texas district removes religion from graduations (June 15, 2023)

The Dickinson Independent School District in Texas will no longer include proselytizing remarks in future graduation ceremonies after hearing from FFRF.

A district parent reported that Principal Billye Smith delivered a speech in which she quoted scripture during the 2023 Dickinson High School graduation ceremony. FFRF was informed that graduating seniors, including the complainant’s child, were not aware that Smith would be delivering a religious speech during the ceremony.

“Public school students have a constitutional right to be free from religious indoctrination in their public schools, including while participating in graduation ceremonies,” FFRF Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence wrote.

FFRF received an emailed response from Superintendent Carla Voelkel, promising action in regard to the violation. “Dickinson ISD will promptly address this concern, and we will ensure that all future school-sponsored events respect the First Amendment rights of students and their families,” she wrote.