School staff won’t join in prayer event (September 26, 2016)

The Ponderosa High School staff in California has been told to remain neutral and not participate in an annual Christian prayer event called “See You At The Pole.”

A concerned parent of a student at the school contacted FFRF about the prayer event listed on the school’s bulletin stating that all students and staff were welcome.

In a letter sent Sept. 26, FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler informed El Dorado Union High School District Superintendent Stephen Weher that the event violated the constitutional obligation of public schools to remain neutral toward religion.

“It is well settled that a public school employee may not lead, direct, or encourage students to engage in prayer,” wrote Ziegler. “Staff participation in religious events alienates non-Christian students, teachers, and parents whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school staff, including the one-in-three young Americans who are not religious.”

Ziegler reminded Superintendent Weher that any religious event, such as See You at the Pole, must be entirely student-initiated and student-run and that staff members must refrain from participating in religious events.

Weher responded on Sept. 26 informing FFRF that the school had revised the bulletin for the prayer event and would inform staff of their obligation to remain neutral and uninvolved in the event. He also assured FFRF that “See You at the Pole” was student-driven.

Freedom From Religion Foundation