School has affirmed its commitment to protecting its students rights (February 21, 2019)

The Benton County School District has affirmed its commitment to protecting its students’ First Amendment rights, thanks to FFRF.

A local parent reported that teachers at Hickory Flat Attendance Center instructed students to read from the bible and to complete religious assignments as part of “Bring your Bible to School Day.” The school advertised the religious event on its Facebook page and made an additional post the day of the event showing pictures of kindergarten students reading bibles at the instruction of a teacher. Additionally, students were reportedly assigned to complete religious crafts during the day, such as coloring pages depicting bible stories with bible verses printed on them. Separately, the parent reported that teachers have also adopted the practice of leading students in prayer before lunch.

FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover wrote to district Superintendent Steve Bostick asking that the district investigate both issues and take steps to prevent employees from promoting their personal religious beliefs to their students.

“While I do believe there was no intent to cause harm or distress, I have placed the utmost importance on the requirement we, as a district, must avoid promoting or appearing to promote any religious preference in a public setting,” Bostick wrote. He further informed FFRF that all staff will be required to attend training and review sessions regarding the separation of church and state, and that the district is reviewing its policies for individual school monitoring at the district level.

Freedom From Religion Foundation