Three local youth pastors who volunteered as cafeteria supervisors at Woodward Middle School are being accused of recruiting and speaking about Christianity to students at school.
The Bainbridge Island School District in Washington has asked the men to not volunteer at the school while an investigation is being done. Officials say parents brought the complaints to a district administrator last week.
Students said the presence of pastors at school was “creepy,” according to KIRO-TV.
Danny Smith, one of the youth pastors, took offense to that.
“That for me is when I take an issue, when there are personal accusations about my character (or) creepiness (or) weirdness. My purpose is to just be with these kids and make them feel values and to help our community,” Smith told KIRO-TV.
“The only time church may have come in is when they say ‘what do you do?’ my response is, ‘I’m a youth pastor.’ Even sometimes say I’m a leader because most of the kids don’t know what a youth pastor is,” added Smith, a youth pastor at Island Church.
But School Board President Mike Spence said these allegations couldn’t be ignored.
“There are just too many serious issues to consider here,” Spence told KimoNews.com. “It’s a pretty slippery slope I guess I would say.”
Woodward’s principal wrote an email to parents on Tuesday night saying, “I have not had a single report of any of our volunteers proselytizing or recruiting students on campus. However, we are taking the concerns brought forward seriously.”
The district’s investigation is to make sure all volunteers have been complying with policies, wrote the principal. The investigation will include talking to students, staff and parents, according to Woodward's principal.
“Just because of my occupation, it gets lumped into that whole ugliness that doesn’t need to be,” Smith said.
Some parents, like Tammy Fujihara, who has a son that attends Woodward, side with the pastors.
“They shouldn’t be thought of as a weirdo just because they wanna volunteer at the school,” Fujihara said.
Parents of students from Bainbridge Island School District plan to speak out on the issue during a public comment period at the next school board meeting Thursday night at 5:30 p.m.
In Indiana last year, a youth pastor was barred from speaking to students about spiritual matters during lunch, according to the Christian News Network.
Bainbridge district officials said the pastors may be allowed on campus, depending on the outcome of its investigation.
Sources: KIRO-TV, KomoNews.com, Christian News Network