This Wednesday, Christian students across the country will be participating in “See You at the Pole,” where they gather around the schools flagpole and pray. The most important thing to recognize is that it must be a student-led event — even the official website makes that clear:
I guess no one told the Commerce Public Schools in Oklahoma since the faculty members and administrators there have every intention of running and participating in the event:
“We do this to promote the power of prayer and to share God’s word with our students, staff, and community,” Physical Education Teacher Rochelle Crawford said. “It gives the students a chance to show they are not embarrassed to take a stand for God.”
Leading the music will be Commerce Music Teacher Lisa Dunn. The songs being sung are ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ ‘This is the Day,’ ‘Nothing My God Cannot Do’ and ‘God’s Not Dead.’
Alexander Elementary Assistant Principal Trevor Brough will say a prayer for Mrs. Rogers.
“It’s nice to see our students praise God through song, scripture, and prayer at the beginning of a school day, making Him the number one priority in their lives,” Brough said.
Alexander Elementary Principal Kevin Wade will say the closing remarks and prayer.
“This event helps us to emphasize how important it is to show love and compassion towards others,” Wade said.
This is completely illegal. Let me quote the Christian Right legal group American Center for Law and Justice:
… teachers, in their capacity as school officials, may not actively participate in, lead, or discourage a student religious meeting.
To determine if a teacher has a right to attend events such as See You at the Pole, several factors, including the time of day and manner of participation, must be taken into consideration. If the event occurs during “non-contract” time, teachers should be able to participate in the event without violating the Establishment Clause so long as they make it very clear that they are present in their roles as citizens rather than in their official capacities.
To be clear, teachers can’t participate in the event during school hours. And even if they’re participating before school, they should be doing it in their individual capacities.
And yet, the article states that a music teacher will be leading one event and multiple administrators will be speaking at others, as district representatives.
Just to top it off, the district even listed the event on its official calendar:
What is a student, especially at the elementary level, supposed to think? The coercion factor is huge: The adults at your school want you to pray and they’ll be upset if you don’t join in.
Yesterday morning, I sent emails to the staff members, administrators, and district superintendent, questioning their understanding of the law and asking whether they will still be participating.
As of this writing, I haven’t heard back from anybody.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)