In an act to safeguard separation of church and state, Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning sent a letter just before the kickoff of Friday Night Football reminding coaches that they are not permitted to initiate prayer sessions with students.
The letter was in response to multiple incidents in which coaches have led prayers at games, potentially alienating players who don’t share the religious beliefs of their coach or teammates. Students are still permitted to pray alone or together.
"Students can initiate and lead prayers during any non-instructional time that you normally allow students to engage in nonreligious activities,” the letter read. "Adults may not initiate or lead prayers when acting in their official school district capacity, but are free to pray or worship privately or silently. We want students to be able to exercise their faith at appropriate times and places, but we don’t want anyone to feel coerced into participating or to feel ostracized if they choose not to participate."
It also read, "In Pasco County Schools, we respect every child’s and every adult’s right to exercise their faith. At the same time, we have an obligation to adhere to laws that prohibit teachers, school administrators, and other school employees, while acting in their official capacity, from encouraging or discouraging prayer and from actively participating in prayer activities with students.”
Earlier this year, Browning made a push to help curb bullying at school. He requested that all school faculty and staff, including administrators, take time to show students that they care about their welfare and address any issues of poor treatment by their peers.
This was in response to a number of bullying incidents over the past year, one of which led to the suicide of a 16-year-old.
“We admit as a District we are not running from the fact we have a bullying issue,” said Browning. “We as a district need to model a culture of caring.”
Presumably, this care will not involve any praying.