Even More Awful Details About the Public School That Allowed Students to Skip Class to Pray

Here’s the story of what happened at Lumpkin County High School (Georgia) as I wrote about it a week ago:

50 students prayed together (with an adult coach) for more than six hours, causing them to miss their classes. Four faculty members were also part of the prayer group. Superintendent Dewey Moye said he wouldn’t punish anybody over the incident.

Now, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is saying the situation is even worse than we were led to believe (PDF)… in four specific areas.

1) It wasn’t just four faculty members. The number is actually closer to 12:

We have confirmation that some students went through entire class periods without any adult supervision or teacher present to actually do their job — teach…

I would lose my job in a heartbeat if I did this.

2) Staff members who participated are related to members of the School Board — so they likely knew they wouldn’t get disciplined for this:

We have also been told that at least three of the staff members who participated in the prayers are related to Lumpkin County Board of Education members, and in one instance, is married to a board member.

Would there have been a punishment if staffers who were not related to board members tried something like this?

3) The principal was aware the prayers were happening early on during the school day:

We have been informed that [Principal Rick] Conner left campus early that morning for an all day meeting. however, we also understand that Conner was at least aware that the incident was occurring before he left campus — and that he did nothing to stop the illegal assembly.

So the Principal, the Superintendent, and the school board were all in on it, it seems.

4) Random adults entered campus to pray with the students.

… it has been reported to FFRF that at least three adult inividuals with no school affiliation or authority entered the campus, went to the gym, and joined the students and staff in prayer.

This is such a security violation. It puts all the students in harm’s way when adults just walk onto campus without prior notification.

FFRF added that one of those adults went to the cafeteria and “harangued students for not participating in the prayers.”

Unrelated, but also disturbing, is the revelation that Principal Conner once berated a science teacher for teaching evolution:

In a New York Times article from 2006, a biology teacher, wishing to teach evolution, had to go through a meeting with Conner regarding her class. She relates the experience:

“He took a Bible off the bookshelf behind him and said, ‘[I] believe in everything in this book, do you?’ I told him, ‘I really feel uncomfortable about your asking that question.’ [But] he wouldn’t let it go.”

This teacher eventually had to fill out a grievance because she was being “threatened and harassed” by staff for following the approved curriculum. This all occurred under Conner’s, and for that matter, your, watch. This presents serious issues regarding Conner’s knowledge and complicity in the illegal incident. Surely if he’s willing to inject religion into the public school in one instance he is willing to facilitate, participate, or allow it in another instance.

This is so ridiculously illegal on so many levels. FFRF is called for the permanent removal of all staff members involved in this incident. If I were a parent, though, that wouldn’t be justice enough. They send their children to school assuming teachers and administrators are doing everything they can to make school a safe, welcoming environment for everybody. This incident shows that people in leadership roles cared more about appeasing God than doing what’s best for students. They didn’t care about educating them, they didn’t care about the safety of other students, they didn’t care about the students left unattended in several classrooms.

There should be a national outcry over this behavior. And if we weren’t talking about Christian prayer, there probably would be.

Just ask yourself how people would be reacting if we were talking about atheist or Muslim students and staffers acting the same way.

People would have been fired long ago.

And they should be fired now.

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.


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