A classroom used as a prayer room at Liberty High School in Frisco got the attention of the Texas attorney general’s office last week. The office sent a letter raising constitutional concerns about the room. The Frisco superintendent called the letter a “publicity stunt” and said the prayer room has been in use for several years without complaints.
Prayer rooms are just one way public schools in Frisco and across Texas accommodate students and religion.
Tim Boyer was so unhappy about the prayer room at Liberty High that he went to this week’s Frisco school board meeting and spoke his mind.
“Liberty High School is not a mosque. It’s not a synagogue. It’s not a tabernacle. It’s not a temple. It’s not a church,” Boyer said. “It is a school. It is a public school supported by taxpayers for the purpose of educating our children.”
The Frisco Independent School District has said it didn’t violate any state or federal laws by having a prayer room and that the room is open to students of all faiths.
It’s not clear how many public schools in Texas have prayer rooms or designated areas where students can pray, but they are in some schools across the state and country.
“You may hear it said sometimes that prayer’s been kicked out of public schools,” said Joy Baskin, director of legal services with the Texas Association of School Boards. “In fact, what has been determined by the courts is that schools can’t compel prayer.”
Baskin said prayer rooms in schools are acceptable and legal under the First Amendment. Schools can also give students time to pray, whether it’s during free time or a lunch period. They can give students passes to leave class to pray or leave campus for religious education.
“It’s a concept that courts have looked at for many years,” Baskin said. “It’s called ‘release time,’ and it’s the idea that in order to follow a tenet of faith, the student is briefly excused. It’s an opportunity to have an excused absence in order to follow a tenet of faith.”
Time for prayer isn’t the only religious accommodation you’ll find in public schools. Students can wear a head covering, for example, or a schools can meet students’ dietary restrictions due to their religion. Baskin says all of this is OK as long as it’s not an “undue burden on the school.”
“There are students in Texas who’ve asked to be excused all day on Fridays, every Friday, in order to attend religious services on Friday and most districts have considered that an undue burden because of the amount of class the student would miss,” Baskin said.
Liberty High School established a prayer room in part because Muslim students were leaving school on Fridays to pray and were gone for about two hours. It’s actually a classroom that’s open to students when it’s not being used for instruction….
Posted by Women Against Shariah on Friday, March 24, 2017