Lamar County school employees to keep prayer out of classrooms

Lamar County school employees to keep prayer out of classrooms

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Employees in the Lamar County School District are expected to keep prayer and religion out of the classroom, according to an e-mail from Superintendent Tess Smith.

The e-mail sent to employees Wednesday afternoon came after the district removed a middle school teacher's prayer request board from her classroom after a humanist organization in Washington, D.C. filed a complaint.

"After consultation with our board attorney and discussion with the LCSD board, a decision has been made to remove the prayer request board (at Oak Grove Middle School)," Smith's e-mail read.

The American Humanist Association's Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed the complaint in August after a student's parent sent a picture of the teacher's prayer board to the group. The legal center said the board violated the First Amendment and the separation of church and state.

"Public schools must provide a safe environment for all students, free from religious coercion by teachers," Executive Director of the American Humanist Association Roy Speckhardt said.

The group originally asked the school district to act on their request within seven days, but they gave LCSD more time since the school board did not meet until Tuesday.

The board was painted on a door in the back of the classroom, and students could put their names on the board if they wanted the teacher to pray for them. Smith said instructional time was not spent on the prayer board.