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Hall school system settles prayer-in-school case
Staff will receive First Amendment training, insurance to pay Humanist Associations legal fees
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The Hall County School District will provide First Amendment training to its staff and its insurance carrier is negotiating the payment of legal fees to a group that sued the school system over the role of prayer and Christianity in
athletics programs.

The system and the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center announced the settlement Monday morning.

Superintendent Will Schofield said he could envision a module being added on First Amendment-based prayer guidelines for staff members to sign off on and go through an online refresher.

“It’s a formalizing of what we have always tried to do, and that’s to follow the Constitution of this country,” Schofield said.

The humanist association filed a lawsuit on Dec. 1 along with three anonymous plaintiffs that reside in the Hall County School District.

School officials admitted no violations of the law.

Legal fees of $22,500 are to be paid through insurance carriers, as Schofield and the school district stressed that no monetary payouts would be made.

“This is a victory for the separation of church and state,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, in a news release. “When public schools remain secular, they uphold the rights of all students to learn, free from unnecessary religious intrusion.”

Schofield said the main guidance for the school district on the issue of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause is a 2003 report “Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.” The report gives a “common sense synopsis,” Schofield said, with how schools must act in terms of adult-student interaction.

“It’s been clear and the courts have decided on numerous occasions that when it comes to public school settings, big folks are not supposed to be praying during school time with the little folks,” he said.

Though students maintain almost unlimited rights in terms of religious expression, the same cannot be said for school staff members.

“I’m not in the business nor is this board of creating a God police to go around and ask people what they were thinking in their minds or their hearts, but it is clear and we want our people to know where the line is,” Schofield said. “And that is that adults are not supposed to be praying with students when they’re on the clock.”

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