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.

  • primenumbers

    Yet another example of Christian privilege at work.

  • Stev84

    Nobody needs to pray for two hours. They just needed an excuse to skip class.

  • Ryan Jean

    Is there an SSA on campus yet? If so, I think they just got themselves authorized an unscheduled break from first period tomorrow. If there’s no SSA, the secular students should organize anyway just for this purpose. If the super tries to punish that, he’s asking for trouble…

  • JET

    Wish I’d known this when I was in high school. Several hundred of us might have been able to avoid the week of detention we all got for our impromptu peace rally during 5th period.

  • jdm8

    Clear entitlement mentality. People can pray outside of school, there is no reason to miss any classes for this.

  • Eric Burkhardt

    Religious privilege strikes again!

  • Gus Snarp

    Am I being paranoid if I think that they did it intentionally, hoping to get punished and make it into a right wing media scandal and possible lawsuit?

    That’s the only scenario in which it make sense not to punish them, although in my opinion it would still be better to discipline everyone involved. The snippet from the rule book you posted makes it pretty clear that being with another teacher other than the one whose class you’re supposed to be in is no excuse if proper permission has not been obtained. The students should be disciplined according to the rules. The coach should have some sort of official reprimand placed in his record to at least establish a paper trail, and whatever disciplinary action is appropriate under his or her terms of employment.

    Now if the coach wants to take the hit for the students and say that he or she misled them into thinking proper permission had been obtained, then the students can be let off the hook, but the coach should also suffer a much harsher punishment.

  • lorimakesquilts

    So the rest of the school needs to skip out for two hours, then all will be right. I’d be raising all kinds of trouble if my child had ever been suspended for missing class — this is a clear case of giving christians preferential treatment.

  • observer

    I’m inclined to believe that if Moye did discipline the students, people may assume the students are being punished for the prayer, rather then being late.

  • Christine

    Call me skeptical on it specifically being Christian privilege. I don’t see how the fact that the Muslim students are cutting class for prayers at a known time making it that different from this. It’s religious privilege.

  • primenumbers

    When it’s Christians that do this, it’s Christian privilege, and when other religions do it, yes it’s just plain religious privilege in general.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    the school policy is crystal clear. there is no excuse, including “what some people might say.”

    i’m pissed off as a taxpayer. as Hemant points out, the other kids in class had their time wasted, and also the teacher. schools are strapped enough as it is, causing what is effectively the loss of a significant chunk of the teaching day is an infraction that should be punished.

  • meowth

    big fuckin deal they missed a single class who cares

  • hailey

    All those comments for that article with Christians in a “we’re being persecuted” frenzy. Another example of how Christians don’t live in reality. Really, really sad.

  • hailey

    If their teachers are anything like my teachers in high school were, a bunch of students absent for class meant the students who DID show up were shorted on their learning time. My teachers would’ve just called it a free day instead of having to repeat a lesson twice.

  • hailey

    Damn straight that coach (and possibly some students) wanted media attention. Christians have a clear agenda: to promote their religious belief over all else. This life is not important to them; they’re too busy fantasizing about an afterlife in heaven with God.

  • JKPS

    I read some of the other comments on the article. That was just depressing. It’s ridiculous how many Christians think that they deserve special privileges and accommodations for things like this. They actually applaud people who bend and break the rules to suit their agenda – as long as it’s the Christian agenda. Any attempt to reason with them has them crying persecution. It’s maddening.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.lev.104 John Lev

    What’s funny is that one of my christians friends just sent this to me (http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/teens-decide-to-fight-back-against-anti-christian-bullies.html) Never mind the fact that I can’t find any links talking about the teacher mentioned in the article but the arguements made by the students is the same ol “help, help we’re being oppressed” tripe. I then open FA’s blog and see this lovely gem which I fired back at him. Thanks Hemant!

  • busterggi

    Naturally, persecuted Christians always get their way. Next prayer meeting will be held at the nearest mall with a special session during Iron Man 3.

  • busterggi

    Not a chance! This was for Jesus, it had nothing to do with peace.

  • Yoav

    The spontaneous prayer at Lumpkin County High School

    I have a suspicion this was about as spontaneous as ordinary north koreans spontaneously gathering to voice their support of Kim Jung-Un.

  • Nicole Schrand

    So what happened to “actions/infractions have to have consequences” a la Kiera Wilmot? I mean I realize it’s a totally different school/school system/state, but, umm… this is stupid.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.potter.73 Matt Potter

    If this group isn’t being disciplined from missing nearly a quarter of the school day then I hope no other student who was late that day is as well. At a minimum the coach as a representative of the school needs some reprimand as it is his job to make sure the students are where they should be. As a coach I’m assuming he doesn’t allow his athletes to miss large portions of practice because they we praying.

  • MsC

    While the superintendent says there will be no punishment in terms of suspension or detention, teachers should have the authority to give students a “0″ for any work they missed with this unexcused absence. Miss a pop quiz or missed an assignment to pray with Coach? Too bad, so sad. Here’s your “F.”

  • ShoeUnited

    So, if I pray to the porcelain god, I can skip out of work citing religious reasons? I think I’ve found a new employer.

  • lorimakesquilts

    After plowing through all the comments it appears that the superintendent seriously downplayed the extent of what happened that day. It lasted nearly all day, it involved many more students and quite a few teachers that left their classrooms unattended during this time. They’re heading for a nasty lawsuit.

  • ShoeUnited

    Of course it was spontaneous. Haven’t you ever gone out jogging with some friends when one trips over a twig and says something like “Jesus Christ!” and then proceeds to pull out his Bible and read the entire book of Numbers?

    It’s like spontaenous human combustion. But it’s called Spontaneous Biblical Filibusterin.

  • ShoeUnited

    I actually was on the Block schedule back in the 90s. An hour and a half of classes means that there’s more time class participation. And it occurs more frequently than tests (at least all the classes I took). And even on test days, the teachers rarely had anything planned after tests. So, you could finish the test, hand it in, and go off campus for the next hour of class (especially nice when you had 2nd period off and didn’t need to come back to school until 1:30).

  • Hat Stealer

    Beat me to it. How the hell could anyone kneel for two hours and do nothing but mumble under their breath. Here’s what I imagine happened:

    First 15 Minutes: “Okay everyone, time to pray!”

    Remaining 1 hour 45 minutes: “Now that’s done, time to FRATERNIZE!”

  • ShoeUnited

    I know that happens, but I feel that the teachers should have taught those who came to class. Failed the test little Timmy? We were learning Science while you were learning about this new person called Jesus that you never heard before.

    I’m sorry, but there’s no molarity of Jesus.

  • Mick

    The kids would have really enjoyed being rebels for Jesus – especially when lessons started and they were still praying. They would have been thinking, “Wow, this is great, we’re getting away with it…”

    But it will be a different story if the prayer leading kid tries to organize another prayerfest that doesn’t cut into class time: “What? Listen to you rave on for another two hours? Not a chance sunshine, we’ve got better things to do.”

  • Gus Snarp

    Unfortunately if Timmy fails the test then the school’s rating is reduced and funding to the school is cut. Meanwhile the entire district loses money because they have to spend taxpayer dollars on private school vouchers and charter schools that are now available to students. Suddenly Timmy and his friends who failed the test get to go to a private Christian school on the taxpayers’ dime and study creationism instead. Meanwhile the students left behind suffer from large classes, staff cutbacks, elimination of art classes, and reduced availability of instructional materials.

  • Sue Blue

    Okay, so would it be okay for a group of atheist students to gather for two hours to discuss the cosmological argument or how to volunteer for some community effort or practice yoga positions or something? I’d guess not. I’d also bet that Satanist students wouldn’t be allowed to gather for two hours in the school basement, light candles and chant, nor would Buddhist students be allowed to meditate for two hours, nor would Muslims be allowed to skip classes several times during the day and roll out their prayer rugs. I’d bet my next paycheck that these school administrators would be screaming bloody murder and suspending any of those students immediately.

  • Gus Snarp

    Did anybody see this line in the original article:

    One student was suspended for three days for being overly aggressive to an administrator who would not let another person join the prayer group.”

    What the hell was going on in there? It sounds like they turned their FCA meeting into a tent revival, and then in all their Christian humility, got in the face of an administrator for telling a student who was supposed to be in class that they couldn’t go in.

  • Nate Frein

    Dunno if it’s a bad link or they took it down but I’m getting “no results found”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.potter.73 Matt Potter

    It appears there is much more to this story, now it’s being said the prayer session was 6 hours long and 4 faculty members were involved.

  • Gus Snarp

    Wow. Just wow. They basically did turn the gym into a revival meeting for almost the entire school day, and no one is going to suffer any consequences. This is just stunning. And their youth pastor supports what they did. It’s just disgusting. I have to imagine that my Baptist youth pastor in high school would have told us we should be in class during class time. And yet they think they’re being persecuted if they’re told they can’t do this sort of thing.

  • Anna

    The student showed up at the coach’s office and the coach did pray with them

    I guess it’s constitutional for teachers to pray with students as long as they’re not leading the prayers? Somehow I think the general public would feel differently about teachers participating in religious activities if the teachers were Muslims kneeling to Mecca with their students or Wiccans casting circles and calling the elements with their students.

  • Mario Strada

    Take the end parenthesis out of the end of the link and it will work. But I am not sure you really want to either watch the video and especially read the comments below. If you do, make sure you have some blood pressure medication and a fistful of Xanax nearby.

  • Gus Snarp

    No, no, they call it “FELLOWSHIP!”

  • baal

    Reasonable accommodation planned for ahead of time is quite a bit different than feeling so loved by the lord that you skip that large a block of time.

  • baal

    I’m fairly anti-religious but would love to see 100 students do a wiccan ritual on the football field.

  • allein

    Of course not, candles are a fire hazard. ;)

  • Kinky F.


    When did these fucking hillbillies start thinking “School” is a synonym for “Church”. It sure seems that way….Graduation? Gotta take time for prayer to Jesus and make sure it gets shoved down everyone’s throat, even though the event is about the kids’ achievements…..Studying in school? Not without a heapin’ helpin’ of Christ! Shove it down there, even though it takes away from actual education time and all y’all.

    I am so sick of these twisted and sick Christian fucks thinking EVERYTHING and EVERYWHERE is Christ’s little playground. Why aren’t they forcing mandatory prayer sessions down at the local titty bars?

    Each day, I die a little more inside because of this shit. No joke. No tongue in cheek. These fucks are just wearing us down.

  • Artor

    I’d love to see the football team try to play around the giant Maypole in the middle of the field!

  • ShoeUnited

    But Timmy can do that now. Private Schools are subsidized by taxes anyway. And they still charge. I’ve went to Catholic School.

  • TheAnti-Coconut

    I want to see some Muslim students try to pull this kind of shit. On second thought, for their safety, no, I don’t.

  • TheAnti-Coconut

    Hmm…maybe. But it could be that they really are just that arrogant and used to Christian privilege that it never occurred to them.

  • TheAnti-Coconut

    Holly shit. That has got to be unconstitutional.

  • Gus Snarp

    Interestingly, at my elementary school in a predominately Baptist area in the south, the sixth graders do a maypole dance every year and have been doing so for decades. Apparently none of the Christians have caught on to the pagan nature of the ritual…

  • Gus Snarp

    In the United States I’ve heard of a few fringe cases where there simply were no public schools and so private religious schools served that purpose and were subsidized, but in general, to my knowledge, there is no tax funding for parochial schools outside of vouchers. Vouchers are only available to students whose regular public school has received bad ratings under No Child Left Behind.

  • SeekerLancer

    I know if I were in that school the first thing I would do is demand two hours off.

  • Nate Frein

    Yup, that worked, thanks. Feeling kinda stupid I missed that parenthesis…

    Wish I could say I was surprised by what I read in the link…

  • Renshia

    It just seems to me, the only real reason for holding on to religion, is to have a weapon to used on those, who they decide to oppose.
    Religion, the ultimate weapon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

    I don’t know. In 2001, one of my high school French teachers thought it was a better use of a fair fraction of class time to have students meditate (although it was not religious meditation) than to spend the time teaching us French, and to my knowledge was not censored for it. I objected to the teacher, and so spent those periods in an adjacent room reading ahead in the textbook. In retrospect, perhaps I should have made a bigger deal of it.

  • http://twitter.com/yjmbobllns Yojimbo Billions

    Doesn’t this perfectly encapsulate the truth that the only reason a person prays is to avoid learning something?

  • Sue Blue

    Okay, omit the candles, but how about the class-skipping for two hours to cast spells and chant “Hail Satan”?

  • hailey

    I watched the video for the 2nd article and that superintendent is either dumb or playing dumb. He says the teachers didn’t know that what they did was wrong. Christians are always trying to pull a fast one, aren’t they?

  • Sue Blue

    I’d bet not at Lumpkin County High, which probably has no Muslim students or students of other faiths/non-faiths…at least none who’ll admit to it for fear of bullying.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

    There is certainly variation from school to school, and I cannot speak to Lumpkin in particular.

  • Jane Williams

    I just wonder how many attended the last weekly church service with their family.

  • Kinky F.

    You know, I have been struggling with this very thing for q while now, and I am slowly starting to take a more honest and fatalistic approach. This is just entropy at its finest. The United States are imploding. It happens; all systems break down. Nothing we can do, you know, it is kind of like trying to fight and/or stop the tide – ain’t gonna happen.

    I think now is the time to just sit back and treat this like it truly is, grand spectacle and entertainment. These twisted Xian fucks are dumber than fenceposts and relish the ignorance and stupidity. Time now to just sit back, have an exit strategy to another country, and have a drink while the entropic decay ensues.

  • betty barcode

    I’m picturing 50 science students showing up in church and reciting the periodic table…

  • McAtheist

    Precedent set, late for school? Oh, you were praying? No problem.

  • DougI

    More special rights for Christians.

  • http://twitter.com/I_Quoc ai quoc

    Update info…

    The kids and teachers prayed for 6 hours (7:30 – 2:30),

    4 teachers left their classes to participated in this prayer gathering.

  • Emmet

    I doubt their prayer consisted of kneeling for two hours and mumbling.

  • Emmet

    This Catholic Christian’s life is very important to him. I quite enjoy it, actually. Generalisations – you know…

  • Emmet

    That is pretty unbelievable. Can’t be the first time something similar has happened – the people involved must have known that they wouldn’t be censured.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stigmabuster22 Brian Daugherty

    10 bucks says their first period was a science class.

  • Madison Blane

    Would it have been excused if they had showed up to school two hours late with the excuse that home prayers had run late? Why is this overlooked simply because the prayers took place on campus? If your behind is out of your assigned seat, you are absent – period! “I’m Christian and I pray” may cover a multitude of sins in your church but NOT in society!!

  • http://www.myfathershouse.squarespace.com/ A Christian

    I’m not advocating for the student’s missing class, but this seems to be an unusual situation. I am wondering if something was going on that the students were upset about? Maybe a friend or teacher had been diagnosed with cancer and they were talking about ways to help?

    My first year and first month of college witnessed 9/11. I put up signs that evening around my dorm building advertising a prayer-get-together at a certain time. I wasn’t aware there were sign-posting rules, but my RD (not a Christian) overlooked it in light of the situation, although she informed me of the rules.

    In all fairness, the prayer began before school (could have been anywhere from 30 min. to an hour before) and went over. Maybe that wasn’t the case, I’m just saying it seems like there isn’t enough information to get upset over.


  • Baby_Raptor

    The fact that it happened and nobody is getting punished for it is enough to get upset over. Or did you miss the fact that at least one teacher abandoned their class to go to this thing? And 50 some-odd kids skipped 6 hours of school? And that it happened in a freaking school, which runs on tax payer dollars, and the teachers are getting paid for the time they wasted doing this?

    The only reason you think it’s okay is because they were praying to your god.

  • http://www.myfathershouse.squarespace.com/ A Christian

    My, aren’t you “friendly”? Where is the evidence this happened for six hours? The articles cited said it went ONE hour into school. How many students attend this school? Do 50 students missing from class shut it down?

    I didn’t say it was “ok”, I said maybe there is another reason. With all the problems in this world, is this one really worth a big fight?

  • Daddy Do Run Run

    The Fellowship of Christian Athletes