A public school teacher posted a religious quote from St. Augustine—“Unless you believe, you will not understand”—on her official school website. Students and parents routinely accessed the website to obtain course information and assignments. AU wrote to the school to explain that the inclusion of a religious message on an official school website raised serious constitutional issues. The school removed the quote from the website.
The senior-class officers at Saegertown High School were asked by school officials to choose a classmate to deliver an invocation and benediction at graduation. AU wrote to the school district asking that the prayers be discontinued. The district agreed to stop the prayers and to stop using the terms invocation and benediction, not only at Saegertown, but also at all schools in the district.
AU received a complaint that Paris High School organizes a baccalaureate service at a local church and that students were required to attend in order to graduate. The school’s normal graduation also featured an invocation and a benediction delivered by students. AU wrote to the school asking that it end its involvement with the baccalaureate, inform students that attendance at the service was not mandatory, and that it remove the prayers from its normal graduation ceremony. The school agreed to our requests.
AU received a complaint that Northwestern Senior High invites a clergyperson to deliver an invocation and benediction at its graduation ceremonies, and that the school advertises a religious baccalaureate service for graduates using its website. AU wrote to the school district to ask that it remove prayer from its graduation ceremony and that the school end all involvement with advertising or planning the baccalaureate service. The school district agreed to both requests.
The graduation ceremonies for several high schools within a particular school district for many years have featured Invocations and Benedictions delivered by students selected by the schools. After receiving complaints, AU wrote to the schools and asked that these official prayers be removed from the ceremonies. The schools agreed to remove the prayers and that they would neither place limits on what other students speakers could say nor review their speeches, ensuring that the schools would not guide student speakers towards prayer.
AU received complaints about several religious activities at an elementary school, including a proselytizing speech by an invited speaker at the school’s open house, the school’s principal urging the open-house audience to attend church, and the distribution of Bibles to fifth-grade students. Upon receiving AU’s letter of objection, the school district indicated that the proselytizing speaker will not be invited back and that there will be no further distribution of Bibles to students.
AU received a complaint that a local school district featured a prayer at its mandatory annual convocation for district faculty and staff, as well as for the president of the high-school’s student council. The prayer at the most recent convocation was delivered by a member of the School Board. AU wrote to the district and asked that it ensure that future convocations are free of prayers or other religious content. The school district agreed with this request, and also conducted a legal seminar for school administrators on issues of religion in the public schools.
A high-school student complained of several instances of school employees either encouraging students to pray or participating in prayer with students, particularly in the band and football programs. AU wrote to the school, explaining that such actions are unconstitutional and asking the school to put a stop to them. The school initially denied that faculty initiated or participated in prayers, but we then learned that the band prayers had stopped.
A sign displayed in front of Springville Elementary School often contained religious content, including phrases such as “Jesus Loves You.” AU wrote to the school to explain that the school’s promotion of religious messages on school property was unconstitutional. The school informed us that the messages have been removed.