July/August 2017 Church & State | AU Bulletin

Some Missouri public high school students are asking for an apology after their superintendent sermonized during a graduation ceremony May 13.

Willard High School seniors asserted that Superintendent Kent Medlin’s comments, which included prayers, were inappropriate and exclusive to Christians.

“I came there to graduate, not go to church. It kind of ruined the rest of my night,” Preston Schaeffer, a senior at the school, told the Springfield News-Leader, a local newspaper. “That was the last night of my high school experience, and he chose to talk about religion instead of graduation.”

Students say that it’s an annual occurrence for Medlin to ask students and parents to join him in a prayer at the end of the graduation ceremony, but this year a number of seniors wrote letters asking him not to do so. He ignored them and prayed anyway. 

“He asked students to stand up and pray as a Christian, quoting the Bible numerous times throughout. Many students felt extremely ostracized by the situation when choosing not to pray,” Ashlynn Bradley, another senior who refused to participate in the prayer, said. “Dr. Medlin, the superintendent, even invited students to his office for coffee to discuss ‘the Lord.’ This was incredibly inappropriate.”

The Willard School Board responded to Medlin’s graduation prayers by placing him on paid leave in early June, according to the News-Leader. Since Medlin had already announced his plan to retire at the end of the school year, the board’s actions meant his retirement began a month early.