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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Let us pray: House plans to revamp 'inspirational message' bill



School_prayer For the past few years, some lawmaker or another -- this year Rep. Brad Drake and Sen. Stephen Wise -- have attempted to create law permitting "inspirational messages", including prayer, at noncompulsory high school events, such as graduation.

Each time, the effort has run aground on constitutional concerns.

This session, the House Pre-K-12 Policy Committee is looking to take up the measure, but with a brand new twist. Rather than allowing kids to pray, the committee substitute bill that will come out this week aims instead to simply stop school districts from entering agreements that force teachers to give up their right to pray -- or be present when others pray -- at school.

Committee chairman John Legg tells the Gradebook that the driving force behind the move is the consent decree that Santa Rosa school leaders entered last year to get the ACLU off the district's back regarding prayer in school. The decree bars teachers from participating in anything that has even a tinge of religion attached to it while in their official capacity.

That's had a chilling effect, according to this recent Santa Rosa Press Gazette story. Legg suggested the agreement was "government run amok" and said the legislation would aim to ensure that no other Florida school district could make a similar contract abridging teacher rights.

"I can't see this being controversial," Legg said.

We'll see about that.

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[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:53am]


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