A school district in Texas has reversed its policy of forcing students who want to pray during their lunch break to hide behind a cafeteria curtain, move to an empty gym or go outside.
“We are grateful to Honey Grove school district officials for acting swiftly to ensure that students can freely exercise their right to pray,” said Keisha Russell, associate counsel for First Liberty Institute.
“Students are free to pray together at school as long as it’s not disruptive. Our client is very pleased that she and her friends can continue to pray together for each other, their fellow classmates, and their teachers.”
“Y’all don’t do that again,” the principal, Lee Frost, told the students after they met during a lunch period, sat at an empty table and quietly prayed together, the institute said.
Frost then told the students they could pray only if they went on the cafeteria’s stage behind the curtain, outside of the school building or in the gym while no one was present.
“In other words, the students were told that they could not pray in view of the other students,” First Liberty explained.
“Students should not have to hide or be exiled to pray for each other,” Russell said at the time. “School officials need to remember that students don’t lose their First Amendment rights at the school house gate.”
In a letter to the school, First Liberty noted student-led prayer during non-instructional time during the school day is protected by the U.S. Constitution. The legal group offered to help the district conform the school’s policies on student religious expression to the guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Education.
“During a time of so much conflict in schools, it’s good when students come together to support their fellow classmates, including praying for each other,” said Russell. “We trust the school district will continue to conform to the law and ensure that the students’ right to pray is protected.”
First Liberty told Supt. Todd Morrison of Honey Grove Independent School District in Honey Grove, Texas, it was representing Carrie Allen on behalf of her daughter, Hannah Allen, an eighth-grader.
The students walked to an empty table, held hands and quietly prayed with one another when Frost confronted them.
First Liberty told the school the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled there “can be no doubt that the First Amendment protects the right to pray.”
Morrison told WND at the time the letter was “pretty fictitious” and that kids “have an opportunity to be open in prayer … every day.”
He said Frost reacted because students were involving other students in prayer against their will.