Prayers in the Classroom
After teaching a prayer and handing out pamphlets for a local church to students in a North Carolina classroom, the teacher responsible has sparked controversy in both the community of Forest City and now international media. The teacher, who’s personal information was not released in the Huffington Post article (http://huff.to/11PiB7p) that I studied, has technically not disobeyed any laws but is still causing a moral uproar. From angry parents to the school board adding new policies, there is a clear disapproval of the teacher’s actions.
Having a daughter who attends Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, Stephanie Morris was the first to complain to the school board about what was taking place. Although the complaint did not go through at first and she needed assistance from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the school board finally listened and has now introduced a new policy regarding religious “neutrality”. Although it is not clear from the article if Morris followed the same religion as the teacher, it is still evident from her complaint that she disagreed with the teacher’s actions and felt strongly that something had to change.
With an increasing amount of diversity emerging in North America, one has to be respectful of other religions, even if the religion does not agree with yours. This is the opposite of what the teacher has done. Even if a majority of her students did practice the religion she preached, the school is not one that has an official religion in which it follows. Not only has the teacher in my mind disregarded the fact that other students may practice a different religion but she is also not giving her students “religious freedom in the school environment”.
The school boards new policy doesn’t eliminate religious practice from school settings but rather ensures that these practices do not infringe on others around them. Part of the policy states that “student[s] may pray silently at any time or audibly at his or her free time”. The students are still encouraged to practice religiosity if they so choose to but to also respect fellow students. As this North Carolina Charter School Board moves to a policy in which protects both those who follow or do not follow a religion, we will hopefully begin to see more polices similar to this emerge in other school boards. As the policy states, there is a “diversity of religions, or no religion at all” in the school system and there must be the assurance that each student is free to choose.
Whether the teachers reason for teaching a prayer was because she was naïve that others might not follow the same religion or she simply does not care doesn’t matter. The point of the article and the policy change was that fact that in a place where students are supposedly free to make there own choices regarding religion was taken away. In today’s society, it has become the norm to accept others based on differences and even if the teacher had the best of intentions, she carried out these intentions in what both the school board and a particular parent believed to be the wrong way.