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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

St. Johns schools get prayer protection



Beverly_slough Kim_kendall Students in St. Johns County, on the outskirts of Jacksonville, posted some of the best FCAT scores in the state last year. And who knows? Maybe they got help from above.

According to an e-mail obtained by the Gradebook, pastors, principals and others gathered at four St. Johns schools on a recent Sunday to walk through them and pray for "God's blessing and providence over each classroom and student."

The prayer groups included Beverly Slough (left), who chairs the St. Johns School Board and is president of the Florida School Boards Association. And the e-mail was sent to a third party by Kim Kendall (right), the St. John's mom-turned-activist who became the most visible critic of the state's new evolution-embracing science standards.

Kendall's message said Slough asked that the e-mail be forwarded to interested parents at one of the schools.

The prayer group "has nothing to do with the School Board," Slough told the Gradebook. "It's a very informal thing. It's parents and sometimes principals who just appreciate a time of dedication and blessing and prayer protection for their students for the year."

Slough, who was also highly critical of the state science standards, said she has participated in the prayer efforts for several years and that many St. Johns schools have taken part. She said a number of churches participate, including Switzerland Community Church, where her husband is senior pastor.

Glenn Katon, who directs the Religious Freedom Project for the American Civil Liberties Union in Florida, doesn't necessarily see a problem -– not unless school officials are using their official positions to round up participants, or if the schools are denying the same opportunity to other groups.

Asked whether St. Johns officials would let Jewish or Muslim groups do the same thing, Slough said, "I'm sure we probably would."

- Ron Matus, state education reporter


[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:56am]


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