[private]The Hall County school district has settled a federal lawsuit that alleged football coaches at Chestatee High School were violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by praying with their players and inserting biblical messages into football documents.
The school system agreed that its “routine professional training” for school employees and staff “should include the legal rights and responsibilities of individuals regarding issues related to religion in the public school setting.”
The school district’s insurance carrier will also pay $22,500 to cover the legal fees of the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, which sued the system last December and has dismissed the lawsuit.
“This is a victory for the separation of church and state,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the AHA. “When public schools remain secular, they uphold the rights of all students to learn, free from unnecessary religious intrusion.”
“All parties agree it is paramount that the Constitution of the United States is protected and upheld,” said a statement released by Hall Supt. Will Schofield.
“While public school students are guaranteed wide-ranging religious freedoms, employees’ rights are more limited when in their work settings,” Schofield said. “The district will continue to hold the expectation that individuals within our organization abide by the laws of our land.”
The AHA filed the lawsuit Dec. 1 on behalf of three anonymous plaintiffs in U.S. District Court in Gainesville against the school district, Schofield, and Chestatee High School Principal Suzanne Jarrard.
“CHS football coaches have participated in prayers with students at football games,” the lawsuit alleged. “CHS coaches have joined players in prayer while standing in a circle. CHS coaches have led or participated in prayers with students for at least five years.”
The lawsuit added: “The School District also has an ongoing policy, practice and custom of allowing its faculty, including coaches, to insert religious biblical passages and references on official football team documents and promotional materials such as banners.”
AHA’s lawyers asked the federal court to enjoin school district employees from “leading, initiating or participating in prayers with students at school sponsored activities and specifically at athletic games and practices and marching band practices and performances.”
In agreeing to settle the lawsuit, “The Hall County School District admits to no violations of state or federal laws,” Schofield said.
© 2015 by The Georgia Report