The Bulloch County Board of Education and Superintendent Charles Wilson issued a press release Thursday in response to a letter they received from the Liberty Counsel. They drafted the release, along with a letter to Jeremiah Dys, an attorney with the organization, in an executive session on Dec. 9.
Wilson said that he and the Board of Education had not changed or adopted any new policies prohibiting the rights of school system employees to practice their constitutional rights of religious expression, but they came to learn that there were some mistakes and misinterpretations, from both employees and concerned citizens, in how his Nov. 6 reminder to administrators was received.
Wilson said in a statement, "I believe Board Chairman Maurice Hill stated it best Thursday night when he said, ‘We have to correct what is erroneous in order to restore harmony and present a solution that is best for our administration and schools.'" Wilson expressed that he also agrees with Chairman Hill, that "we (Board/Bulloch County Schools) cannot remedy this overnight."
As clarification, Wilson explained to employees in an email: 1) you do not have to step away or turn your back on student-led prayer, just be mindful so as not to appear that you are leading it' 2) you are free to pray to yourself at school and with peers of like faith when students are not present; 3) you may wear non-obtrusive religious jewelry; 4) our students are free to learn about different faiths, cultures and holiday traditions in the context of the lessons our teachers prepare.
Because Bulloch County Schools employees are given the responsibility to educate children and the inherent authority that comes with the responsibility, the school system has to limit religious symbols, scripture and phrases on email signatures and in work spaces unless they are being used to teach a cultural lesson or advance some educational purpose, according to Wilson.
Said Wilson, "Our employees must always respect student expression of religious views, but they must be neutral with regard to their individual expressions in the presence of students."
The school system has additional resources on its website at www.bulloch.k12.ga.us/religiousliberties.
The Bulloch County Board of Education is hosting a public information session on Thursday, Dec. 19, at 6:00 p.m. at the William James Educational Complex Cafeteria.
The letter from the Liberty Counsel to the Bulloch County BOE can be read here.
The Letter to Jeremiah Dys from the Bulloch County BOE can be read here.
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