50 High School Students Ditch Class and Get Away With It… Because of Jesus

Even atheists will tell you they have no legal problem with students and teachers who pray during school. As long as its on their own time, it’s not disruptive, and there’s no coercion from adults involved, it’s usually not an issue at all.

But what happened at Lumpkin County High School (Georgia) last Wednesday appears to be a very clear violation of school policy (the highlight for me comes at the 1:28 mark below, for totally stereotypical reasons…):

Controversy is brewing in a northern Georgia community after about 50 students prayed together Wednesday morning when school officials said they should have been in class.

The spontaneous prayer at Lumpkin County High School has become the talk of the town. Lumpkin County Schools Superintendent Dewey Moye said that a student started the prayer in a coach’s office at 7:30 a.m. and it lasted more than two hours.

“It was a student-led initiative. The student showed up at the coach’s office and the coach did pray with them and it went into the school day, over into the first period of the day,” Moye said.

Keep in mind LCHS has a block schedule so missing “first period” really means they missed a nearly-90-minute class.

What bugs me here isn’t the coach’s participation. If it was before school, I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. I don’t even care that the students came into the coach’s office, though that’s just weird…

What bothers me is that the Superintendent doesn’t seem concerned about any of this:

Moye says he realizes what happened Wednesday cannot happen again. He admits some parents called to complain about the prayer, but he says that going forward, procedures and policies will be followed.

While he said that he will not discipline the coach and students, Moye says from now on, there will be no prayers during school hours.

No punishments for anyone. Which is crazy.

Did the coach not have any responsibility to tell the students to get to class?

Weren’t the students aware that skipping class for some random reason, in most schools, amounts to a truancy and/or suspension?

The question we really need to be asking is this one: If students ditched the beginning of the school day without an excuse, would they have been punished? If the answer is yes, then “We were praying” is not a legitimate excuse. Hell, if students took too long during a “bathroom break,” they’d be in trouble in most places.

Moye’s excuse is that students have a right to pray. But that’s not in dispute:

“I believe it’s a Constitutional right to pray, yes I do. I believe they can do so at their desk, as long as they do not disrupt the school day,” Moye said.

That’s precisely the problem. The students disrupted the school day and Moye’s doing nothing about it!

There are several times over the course of a school year when half my class is missing because of some field trip or another. In most cases, I can’t teach anything because it’s just not worth it; I’ll have to reteach it to the missing kids the next day, anyway, so why not just hold off until then. It’s disruptive, but I accept it as part of the “high school deal.” To think that 50 kids were out of their classes for an unscheduled prayer? No field trip slips? No advance warning? If I were a teacher there, I’d be pissed off.

The comments online are overwhelmingly in support of the students and the Superintendent — “So grateful this story is about 50 students who were praying, not 50 students who were killed!”

That makes sense… Who needs to go to class when you have Jesus and osmosis?

The ACLU is investigating any possible proselytization, but there’s no evidence of that.

The problem is that students skipped class, with the knowledge of at least one coach, and they were not punished at all for it because they were praying. Religion should not be a Get Out of Jail Free card, certainly not in this case, and the Superintendent needs to be punished for his weak response to an obvious infraction.

By the way, I was looking at the LCHS handbook and they actually address what happens to students who skip class:

A student who cuts a class during the school day will receive a “0” for that day in the subject missed. A student who is doing work for another teacher or is in another area other than his designated classroom (such as the restroom) without permission from his teacher or an administrator will be considered skipping. Students who leave their classroom during class time for any reason will make up the time missed in class at their teacher’s discretion at break, before or after school, or during lunch break. Any student out of class FOR ANY REASON during the school day must have permission from a teacher entered on the sign out page of his/her agenda book.. Being more than 5 minutes late to class is skipping class. Consequences include suspension.

Being 5 minutes late? Could lead to suspension.

Being 90 minutes late? Don’t worry about it… if you’re Christian.

Totally makes sense.

(via Religion Clause)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.