Monday, March 30, 2015

Caddo Parish Public Schools Have an Establishment Clause Problem

Last night someone I know posted the above images on Facebook. These are flyers which were distributed by Walnut Hill Elementary/Middle School, which is a public school in Shreveport.

When I looked up the school's website, I found the following in the "Principal's Message" section:

Our school may be old of age, but it is cleaned, well-maintained and free of debris and graffiti.  Our faculty may not be monetarily rich, but they care, share and give to our students a wealth of knowledge that will help them become our country's doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, nurses, and yes, even presidents.  Our students come from all economic levels, communities, races and origins, but at our school they unite and become one indivisible student body under the Walnut Hill banner of excellence, fairness, and quality for all.
     The sun may not shine outside, but inside our laughter, smiles, encouragement, praise and love for our children dazzle the day.  Although cloudy days are sometimes evident, the light of optimism, the rays of hope and the joy of teaching and helping our students brighten these cloudy days.
     Our parents may not visit our school each day, but their support, compliments, quick response to our cry for help and love for their children and school is unwavering.
     Although all children may not blossom at the same time, our faculty continues to fertilize their minds, water their thoughts, nourish their spirit, pull back the blinds so that the light can stream in, and soon, they bud, grow, and prosper.
     On mornings when the sun is beaming or hidden, our student prayer group, "Hornets for Hope", pray and give thanks to the Son of God for carrying our school over the thorns of negativity and the thistles of discord and setting it gently on the petals of harmony and the lily of tranquility.  Our "Hornets for Hope" thank God for giving us a school that believes in God, family, and education.
     We thank God for helping us to realize that if we removed Christ, family, and teachers from the lives of our children there is no way that adding more police officers, legislating more laws, building more jails, requiring more testing, mandating more parental involvement, earning more money, or purchasing more things could ever replace the blessings of God, the love of our family, and the knowledge imparted by our teachers.
     A hundred years from now it will not matter what type of house we lived in, what color our skin was, how much money we had or what brand of clothes we wore, but what will matter is that we steadfastly walked in the ways of Christ, that we honored and loved our parents, family, and fellow man and that we lived by our school motto"
"Work for the Best - Accept only the Best - Be the very, very Best."
And that in itself is truly a Blessing!         
Albert Hardison, Principal                                     

Obviously, those flyers and the last three paragraphs of the "Principal's Message" cross the church/state line. That principal has opened his school up to a lot of legal trouble. (Also, the person who wrote the flyer misspelled "Philippians," which raises other questions about the school.)

However, the Establishment Clause problem may extend to other schools in Caddo Parish. The photograph below appears in a slideshow on the main page of the site.

Note that there's a citation below "In God We Trust" on the team's t-shirts. It says, "Phil. 4:13" (which is the same bible verse mentioned in the Walnut Hill flyer). By adding that citation, they have turned the national motto, which is supposedly an example of ceremonial deism, into an explicitly Christian statement. They've also helped show a pattern of Establishment Clause violations by this school district.

Interestingly, the Walnut Hill principal added the words "In God We Trust" after his name at the end of a school security memo which was sent to parents.

Just a quick look around the Caddo school system's website turned up at least one other potential Establishment Clause problem. A principal at another school says on the school's website that she "attributes her success to a strong faith in God." (Also, the school's website misspells the word "principal," but at least that's not unconstitutional.)

UPDATE: Within a day of the ACLU of Louisiana sending an open letter to the Caddo superintendent of schools, the "Principal's Message" on the Walnut Hill website has been changed to comply with the Establishment Clause.


Anonymous said...

With all of the challenges and problems facing Louisiana's educational system, if this is the worst fault you can find at this school, they aren't doing too poorly. Additionally, seeing as how the Bible is ultimately just a book, it is just a quote from a book. I don't see religion being shoved at anyone.
You didn't mention if the person who posted this was upset. Have they contacted the school or the school board? Why does public media have to get involved before anyone simply tries to settle these kinds of things amicably?
Finally, I think it's in bad taste for you to criticize spelling and grammar. I agree that things should be proofread more carefully, but mistakes happen, and it certainly shouldn't "raise other questions about the school." That's an ambiguous argument and I don't see how it furthers the purpose of your post.

Janet French said...

Well, it SHOULD raise other questions about the school if their own leaders can't spell or write correctly. That says much about the school.

Anonymous said...

I hardly consider an extra "l" in a book of the Bible to say anything other than someone made a slight typograpghical error that wasn't caught upon proofreading. Seeing as how it's not a common word, the eye quickly passed over it and corrects it. Also, more than likely, this was typed up by an administrative assistant, not a "leader." Either way, the point is that there's no place to be a grammar Nazi in a post like this. It take focus off of the main issue, which still seems minor compared to the greater challenges of education.

Anonymous said...

-passes and takes...see how easy mistakes are to make?