Spearville Elementary school in western Kansas is coming under fire for a cross displayed the building’s roof. A resident complained about it, and now, an organization that advocates for the separation of church and state has asked that the cross be removed.
Spearville is the only public school in the district, and is home to grades from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) has said that the cross violates the First Amendment in that it “conveys or attempts to convey a message that religion or a particular religious belief is favored or preferred.”
In November, the group sent the school a letter asking for a response within 30 days, and followed it up with another letter on January 9. The school district has chosen not to respond, although a board member has been noted as calling the request “ridiculous.”
The School’s Board of Education has said that the cross will not be removed until a formal lawsuit is filed.
School Superintendent Daryl Stegman commented that “the community stood very firmly that they didn’t want to do anything unless they have to.”
“Worst comes to worst I think you have to take it off,” said Stegman.
Although in past cases, the Supreme Court has upheld religious displays on certain government buildings, different rules may apply in this case because the building in question is an elementary school.
Ultimately, the difference comes down to the fact that schooling at this level is compulsory: children have to attend school.
“Students don’t have a choice to be there,” said Ian smith, an attorney for AUSCS. “Something that might be OK elsewhere is not necessarily going to be OK in a public school.”
As Jeffrey Jackson, law professor at Washburn University in Topeka, said, students at this young age are “fairly impressionable and more vulnerable for indoctrination in religion.”
The school was built in 1925 and was initially a Catholic school, but was transferred to the local district in 1975. Because of its old age, it might be able to seek protection as a historical building. As such, Jackson said that the cross could be viewed a historical rather than religious element of the building.
Smith has said that if the school does not comply and take down the cross, the group will explore further legal options.
Photo Source: USD 381