Bulloch school board wrestles with policy

Published: Dec. 3, 2013 at 12:09 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 2, 2014 at 12:53 AM EST
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BULLOCH CO., GA (WTOC) - Bulloch County's school superintendent and board poured over how they would reply to a complaint by a national watchdog group and an equally passionate religious community.

A national group that advocates for the separation of church and state recently filed a complaint to the school district on behalf of a parent displeased by a coach-led prayer with a high school football team.

The complaint led Superintendent Charles Wilson to remind teachers and staff of an existing policy prohibiting religious expressions in the school environment. It includes religious displays, scriptural tag lines on their school email accounts, among other things.

Since the reminder, some community members have expressed concerns over the religious rights of teachers. Some have organized a petition asking the school district to change the policy.

"A teacher does have the right to private expression and that's what we're mainly concerned about with this. We want to make sure our teachers' right to privately express their faith is held," explained petition organizer Jon Cook.

In a statement written by Wilson after the called meeting with board members, they reinterated the policy is not new and is an effort to conform to federal rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The full statement was as follows:

The Bulloch County Board of Education met in a called session on Monday, December 2, 12:00 noon at the William James Education Complex (WJEC) in Statesboro.  The meeting was called by Superintendent of Schools Charles G. Wilson, Jr., to give Board members an opportunity to openly discuss and give input into a statement for school system employees concerning religious expression. The Board met for approximately 30 minutes and authorized Superintendent Wilson to issue a statement to employees.

 "The Bulloch County Board of Education has not changed or adopted any policies prohibiting the rights of school system employees to practice their constitutional rights of religious expression," Superintendent Charles Wilson said in a prepared statement. "However, there has been a recent reminder from me to school principals about established legal requirements to which we must adhere.  The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, along with subsequent U.S. Supreme Court rulings, addresses these rights and restrictions." 

 Wilson's statement also said that, "The Bulloch County Board of Education and Superintendent support the employees of this school system and their rights to express their beliefs and concerns.  We also support community-based efforts to seek appropriate remedy to infringement, real or perceived, upon freedom of religious expression with the proper authorities. While we stand in support, we are bound to carry out our official duties."

The Board will meet for its regular session on Thursday, December 5, at 6:30 p.m. at the WJEC.

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