Texas school district makes changes after FFRF complaint

A Texas school district will no longer allow the high school principal to preach to students at a student-led prayer event or set up a religious after-school club after the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the district informing it of the unconstitutional activities.

Responding to the FFRF complaint, a lawyer for the Prosper Independent School District stated that the high school principal, Greg Wright, will no longer speak “in his capacity as District employee at future on-campus, student-led See You at the Pole events.” Also, according to the school district attorney Charles Crawford, “Principal Wright is not forming a religious club for students, the First Priority Club. Rather, this club is being student formed and led.”

In addition, based on FFRF Attorney Andrew Seidel’s letter to the district, school officials will not “prominently display religious materials in school buildings where students are likely to be present.”

“We’re pleased the school is taking its First Amendment obligations seriously, and will be monitoring the situation to ensure they honor that commitment,” Seidel said.

FFRF first received a report from a family in the district detailing how Wright preached to students at the school’s See You at the Pole gathering on Sept. 25, an annual Christian prayer event.

Wright had been “encouraging students to be proactive and make their daily walk with Christ a priority,” read a Facebook post promoting Wright’s new club.

It’s important that PISD staff understand that “as government officers and state actors, their personal rights of free exercise and free speech are not unlimited,” wrote Seidel. Religious events and clubs must be “genuinely student-led” under the federal Equal Access Act, he emphasized.

Even See You At The Pole’s official website recognizes that “Adult volunteers and parents should not lead the See You at the Pole gathering,” FFRF points out. “The best place for an adult to pray on the day of See You at the Pole is not on campus with the students,” the site continues.

In addition, blatant admissions on social media make any claim that the new First Priority Club is student-led “disingenuous,” said Seidel. “Student clubs must be student clubs, not excuses for adults to lead religious worship on school grounds.”

In the FFRF letter, Seidel also asked the district to be wary of potential bullying: “We request that PISD clearly communicate to students and staff that any retaliatory action taken against district families they might believe responsible for raising state-church issues with the school will not be tolerated.” The district said it will “continue to enforce its anti-bullying policies.”

FFRF is a nonprofit state/church watchdog with more than 23,000 members nationwide, including nearly 1,000 in Texas.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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