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Pasco School Board clarifies position on baccalaureate ceremonies



Each spring, graduates from several Pasco County high schools hold religious-oriented baccalaureate ceremonies at churches.

District administration wants to make it clear that it is not promoting these activities, and that its principals must not organize them. But School Board members want to make it equally plain that they still support students and outside groups who want to hold such events on their own. 

A new policy under consideration would state: "The District shall not conduct or sanction a baccalaureate service in conjunction with graduation ceremonies."

"As an official, district-sponsored event, we can't do it," assistant superintendent Renalia DuBose told the board, reminding them that the district should not promulgate religion. "We want principals to know that you should not plan this."

Board member Allen Altman raised concerns that the message might come across that baccalaureates are not permitted at all. "I want to make sure the board will still allow school advisory groups to have baccalaureate off campus," he said.

Superintendent Heather Fiorentino said that parent-teacher-student organizations could put together the services, although the school advisory committees could not because they are government entities. The point, she said, is that these must be student or community events, and not creatures of government.

"It is a separation of church and state issue," student services director Lizette Alexander explained. "It is making explicit what our position is."

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 3:51pm]


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