April 2011 Church & State | People & Events

Officials at a public school in Baltimore, Md., have been criticized for holding a prayer service in preparation for a round of state-mandated tests.Principal Jael Yon of Northeast Baltimore’s Tench Tilghman Elementary/Middle School scheduled the prayer service two days before students began taking the Maryland School Assessments, reported The Baltimore Sun. According to the newspaper, “For two years, prayer services have been held at Northeast Baltimore’s Tench Tilghman Elementary/Middle School as the Maryland School Assessments, a standardized test for third through eighth grades, neared. Fliers promoted the most recent event, on March 5, as a way to ‘come together, as one, in prayer and ask God to bless our school to pass the MSA.’”The Sun said the 30-minute prayer service marked the “culmination of Saturday classes the school has held to provide additional preparation for the Maryland School Assessments. The flier, which included images of praying hands and cited common Christian Bible verses, was distributed to staff to circulate to the school’s 400 students and their families.”The Supreme Court ruled in 1962 and 1963 that public schools cannot sponsor prayer and other religious endeavors (although students retain the right to pray voluntarily). Ironically, one of the cases challenging official school prayer, Murray v. Curlett, was filed in Baltimore.Baltimore education officials agreed that the school’s prayer service was “not appropriate” and said they would look into the matter.That announcement drew a sharp response from Jimmy Gittings, president of the city principals’ union, who told The Sun he supported his colleague’s move.