The Letter in My School Mailbox

I work in a rural school district that is very similar to the one in which I raised my children. I’m sure that I have mentioned how much I love my job. I work with good people. We pray for one another. The coaching staff (and other staff members) pray with our kids.

Or they did. That’s what the letter in my box, which was from the superintendent, was about. Here’s part of what it said:

For several years, we have had administrators, teachers, coaches and other members of our staff gather with our students to pray. Many times this was done at the request of our students. During the past few months, I have received multiple letters from “concerned citizens” indicating their displeasure with our staff praying with our students. In discussions I have held with our school board we were hoping that this issue would simply go away. It has not. I received another letter …again from “concerned citizens of the community,” expressing concern with the level of religious activity in … [our school system]. The letter indicates that they have videos of our staff praying with students.. Legal action has been threatened in the event we do not stop these activities.

I am always irritated when I hear about letters sent by concerned citizens.  If you’re that concerned, you can sign your name, don’t you think?

Anyway, faced with this dilemma, here’s what our superintendent and school board have decided to do.  I don’t think they really have any choice.  Our little district can’t afford to take on big legal fees:

...I [the superintendent] am sending this letter to notify all staff that we, as employees …, cannot engage in prayer with our students.  As coaches, we cannot conduct pre-game or post-game prayers.  Coaches or sponsors cannot indicate that they will step away and that then it’s all right for students to pray.  This does not mean we will stop the large following that we have at both the high school and middle school in our Fellowship of Christian Athletes program.  These programs and meetings are strictly voluntary for our students and hopefully will continue to flourish under the outstanding leadership of our staff.

This also does not mean that the students themselves cannot initiate prayer.  Athletic teams may gather before or after a contest and have prayer.  The coaches however cannot be involved.

The letter ends with our superintendent’s saying that while this decision does not reflect his views or that of many of the school board — and, I am sure, of much of the community–the board has acted as they saw fit to protect the corporation from its “concerned citizens.”  Then he says he is proud to be our superintendent.

I do not live in the community in which I work, but it is a tightly-knit little town in which the churches and faith play a large part.  I am sure this letter was hard for our superintendent to put together, and I am sure it was prayerfully considered before it was sent out.  I am also sure that the people who were praying with our students publicly, as well as the ones who pray on the way to school, in school, and on the way home as the need arises, will continue to do so.  And I am sure that God will continue to raise prayer warriors where there is need and, if you haven’t worked with teens lately, there is always need.

I couldn’t find the Bible verse that says prayer is a sweet savor unto the Lord, so if anyone wants to help me out there, I’d be grateful.  I was going to include it in my closing.  And I am going to post this piece without completely proofreading because, well, it’s time to go to school.  I have a twenty-minute drive, during which I often, ahem, pray, and today, I am sure, nothing about that will change.  After all, Kenny is now in the passing zone for English, and that other sophomore boy’s progress with the written word is just, well, … miraculous.

Today, though, I will add an extra prayer for the Godly people with whom I work, that God will protect them and their community as they continue, privately if not publicly, to reach out to their students and their community in prayer.

And I think I’ll send an e-mail to the superintendent, telling him how glad I am that I work in his district, too.


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December 2009
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