BOE Issues Response to Liberty Institute

Written by  Buddy Horne w'Hayley Greene, BCS Friday, 13 December 2013 11:11

  The response prepared during a three hour executive session Monday evening and sent via email to all employees Thursday and to Jeremiah  Dys, an attorney for the organization.

 

  Bulloch County School Superintendent Charles Wilson said that while 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, they had come to learn…that there were some mistakes and misinterpretations in how his November 6 reminder to administrators was received. 

 

  Wilson clarified employees rights and responsibilities on several issues involving student-led prayer, freedom to pray to yourself at school or with peers when students are not present, non-obtrusive religious jewelry is permissible, and students are free to learn about different faiths, cultures and holiday traditions in the context of the lessons.  

 

  “However,” the statement said, “because Bulloch County Schools employees have been given the responsibility to educate children and with that task comes inherent authority, the school system does have 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.”

 

  Wilson said “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 board will hold another public information session Thursday, December 19, at 6:00 p.m. at the William James Educational Complex Cafeteria.

 

Below is the entire text of the statement:

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 12, 2013
Contact: Hayley Greene, Public Relations & Marketing Specialist
912.212.8512; 912.536.2827; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Board Issues Response to Liberty Institute

Employees Have Freedom of Expression to Fullest Extent of Law


  “The Board of Education and I continue to give our full attention to the question of how each of us is able to express our beliefs in our official duties,” Superintendent Charles Wilson told employees via email Thursday afternoon after sharing with them the Board’s response to a letter received from Liberty Institute on December 5.   The Board’s response was prepared during a three-hour executive session Monday evening, and sent to Jeremiah Dys, an attorney with the organization. 

 

  Wilson stated that while 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, they had come to learn both from employees and concerned citizens that there were some mistakes and misinterpretations in how his November 6 reminder to administrators was received.  Wilson said, “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 an initial clarification, Wilson told employees the following in his email: (1) you do not have to step away or turn your back on student-led prayer. Simply be mindful of your position so as not to appear that you are leading it; (2) you are free to pray to yourself at school and even gather with your peers of like faith to pray when students are not present; (3) you may wear non-obtrusive religious jewelry; and (4) our students are free to learn about different faiths, cultures and holiday traditions in the context of the lessons our teachers prepare.  However, because Bulloch County Schools employees have been given the responsibility to educate children and with that task comes inherent authority, the school system does have 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. “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,” Wilson said. 

 

  Wilson expressed that the concerns and questions of employees and the community are valued, and that the Board and he are doing their best to resolve this matter.  The school system has additional resources on its website at www.bulloch.k12.ga.us/religiousliberties. The Board of Education encourages the community to participate in a public information session on Thursday, December 19, at 6:00 p.m. at the William James Educational Complex Cafeteria.

 

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