in a Hondo, Texas, public elementary school will no longer be saying
prayers at the direction of their teacher, said the school principal in
response to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation on
behalf of one of its Texas members.
The complainants' daughter was in the first-grade class, where
the teacher asked her students to pray each day during morning
announcements. When a substitute teacher was present, the students were
instead told to have a moment of silence.
Hondo is about an hour west of San Antonio and has one elementary school. In the Foundation's letter
to the school, Staff Attorney Rebecca Kratz Markert noted that the
prayerful teacher had taught in the district for 26 years and "has
never been called out for this illegal conduct."
"It is well settled that a public school teacher may not lead,
direct or ask her students to engage in prayer," the letter said. "The
Supreme Court has continually struck down formal and teacher- or
school-led prayer in public schools."
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Courts have struck down prayer in public schools because it's
government endorsement of religion, Markert said. "Your school district
should make certain that its teachers are not unlawfully and
inappropriately indoctrinating students in religious matters."
The Hondo Independent School District's official policy also
prohibits staff from encouraging students to either pray or refrain
from praying in school.
The school's principal responded
within a week of getting the Foundation's letter to say she had met
with the teacher to remind her of the prayer prohibition. "She
understands and will follow correct policy," wrote Principal Ellen
"I will be holding meeting with the teachers at each grade
level to make sure all of them are in complete understanding of the
policy," Schueling said.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president, called the
violation "egregious" and said it was fairly shocking to get such a
complaint from a parent in this day and age.
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"It's been nearly 50 years since the Supreme Court moved to
protect schoolchildren from government-fostered religious
indoctrination," she said.