Prayer in Schools?

Posted: July 2, 2013

As a result of the recent news reports regarding prayer on the football field, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of what is and is not allowed in our public schools.

Public schools are, by definition, schools that are maintained at public expense for the education of the children of a community. The students who attend our district are incredibly diverse, representing over 60 languages spoken and a wide range of ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. We celebrate these differences with culture fairs, extensive world language programs, and a plethora of other activities which allow our students to develop a rich community of understanding and friendship.

Our administrators, teachers, and support staff understand the delicate balance of respecting a student’s faith and freedoms, while maintaining a neutral learning environment, ensuring that each student is provided with an emotionally safe space for instruction.

When the ACLU brought to us some very serious allegations regarding coach-led prayer on the football field, we took immediate action in thoroughly investigating the matter. Our investigation found that while the coach did not lead the students in prayer, he was present when student-led prayers were held. The coach was reminded of our Board Regulation, 5605.1, which states that, “ceremonies, prayer or references of any religious nature are prohibited at school-sponsored events such as banquets, commencement, assemblies and programs.”

Our students should feel comfortable in their environment and we respect their freedom to pray or not pray. However, Bloomfield Hills Schools is a public school district and therefore, prayer must be conducted so as not to conflict with instruction time, other students, or school sponsored activities. If students desire to pray, it cannot be incorporated into classroom instruction, official team meetings, etc.

Enforcing this Board Regulation is our way of maintaining a supportive environment for all students. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation, but more importantly, we appreciate your openness in sharing your unique backgrounds with us. Our differences unite us in Bloomfield Hills Schools and our students are well-rounded, caring, and respectful individuals as a result.