At the school I worked at, like many other schools, we would occasionally hear via email about faculty members going through difficult times, especially when it meant they were out of the building for a while. Some staff members might hit Reply All say something consoling, but it was almost always professional. You knew in the back of your head that your emails could theoretically go public at anytime. You were a government employee — that’s how it worked.
At A.I. Root Middle School in Medina, Ohio, to deal with similar issues, the faculty members started an email prayer chain instead. Even the principal participated.
You can see the problem with that. Lots of religion going through a public school, an implicit promotion of Christianity by staff members and administrators, pressure on faculty members to continue the chain before they were seen in a bad light by their superiors…
At least the superintendent of the district, Dave Knight, had the good sense to put a stop to it:
“Public school staff can’t use district resources, including email, to promote prayer, especially when the principal, a person in a position of influence, is involved,” Knight said. “When it comes to separation of church and state, it’s very clear.”
Knight told [Principal Chad] Wise to end all prayer chain communications during work hours or using district equipment.
There were no punishments handed out — and I’m okay with that. Everyone was told not to use district email to promote religion and they stopped. Or, rather, they moved the prayer chain to their personal emails instead of using school resources — which is perfectly fine.
The only thing I’m wondering is why Principal Wise didn’t know better to begin with. He could’ve requested the prayers move to private email addresses from the beginning; instead, he saw nothing wrong with it and sent his own message to keep it going. I’m almost positive he would have learned about the legal problems with this when he earned his degree, just like the Superintendent did, so what was going through his mind? He’s no better than a lot of the commenters online.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)