Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Setting the Record Straight

A press release from Knox County Schools, setting the record straight on the Bible-reading controversy.
"The Alliance Defense Fund and the family of a student have alleged that Karns Elementary School in Northwest Knox County is violating students’ Constitutional rights by banning Bibles from school and not letting individual students discuss religious topics during non-instructional time. This allegation is untrue.

“At no time have I ever told students that they could not have Bibles in school or that they could not read them on the playground or anywhere else,” said Karns Elementary School Principal Cathy Summa. “The incident described by the Alliance Defense Fund did not occur. At no time have I ever approached the student in question or any other child on the playground and told them to stop reading the Bible or to stop talking about a religious issue.”

“At Karns Elementary we encourage students to read, read, read. We even have free reading time when students can read the material of their choice, and if students choose to read the Bible that is absolutely fine.”

Summa indicated that the only time she has been approached by anyone about Bible study was when three students and a parent asked about conducting an organized Bible study class during recess. No one making the current allegation was a party to this discussion."
That pretty much says it all right there. Nobody was prohibited from bringing a Bible to school, reading the Bible or talking about the Bible. The only requirement is that it be done in a time that doesn't interfere with normal schoolwork, of which recess is still a part.

One piece that was interesting:
"I also support Cathy’s decision concerning Bible study classes or other similar organized activities during recess,” said Lindsey. “Our schools are a reflection of our total community and we have to treat everyone equally and fairly. While most members of this community would not object to an organized Bible study class, to support such an organized activity places the school system in a position to have to support similar requests from less mainstream groups in the community. Some of these groups conducting organized activities during the school day on school grounds would be very upsetting to most of our parents,” he said.
I see they're hedging their bets against other groups who might want to meet, who could be disruptive to student life. I'm certain this does not mean other religions like Muslim, etc, but I'm curious as to what groups they are cautious of. Satanic student clubs? Jedi Knights of America?
“Another thing I think people need to understand is that our teachers and principals do not try to govern or restrict personal conversations between students. We are not concerned if students are in school having an ad hoc private discussion about a religious issue outside the classroom environment. That is their privilege.”
You just can't make it any plainer than that...
The school system has just today received a letter purported to be from Charles Pope representing a Karns Elementary School student in this matter. “The letter has no address and it is unsigned,” said Lindsey. “I am not sure who it is from or even if it is a valid document.”

“In short, I think the Alliance Defense Fund and Mr. Pope, if that is who this letter is really from, have asked us to cease and desist doing something that we are not doing,” explained Lindsey. “I do not know how we can say it more clearly. The allegation is false.”
So it looks like this is one person and one group's attempt to further an agenda by painting a principal as insensitive and un-Godly, and a school system as discriminitory and undisciplined in its rules, allegations which are false. That's just sad.

You can also see how clarity of communication can solve a lot of misunderstandings. For several days, both parties talked at each other in the media, responding to each others' quotes and purported statements but never really talked to each other. A parent and her lawyer -- I'm not sure if it was this Mr. Pope as I didn't catch their names -- were on the Hallerin Hill radio show a few mornings ago and aired their grievances against the principal and the school. Hal played back tapes of an interview he did with Principal Summa, which refuted many of their allegations directly. They tried to paint the picture that Summa's gave subsequent interviews that contradicted some of her claims, but were unable or unwilling to substantiate the claims.

With this release, you finally have a clear picture of the facts. The truth wins out, and the agitators are reduced to caricatures of themselves, skulking around in the corner sending (or being accused of sending) follow-up mails that are unsigned. Either way, they've been sufficiently marginalized and should not present a continuing threat in the future.

(Thanks to commenter "CL" for giving me the heads up on this press release. CL, do you have a blog or an email address?)

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