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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

No proselytizing in Pasco County schools, superintendent says

15

January

In recent weeks, Hillsborough County superintendent Jeff Eakins has come under fire for his overt support of a Christian organization's efforts to reach students in the public schools.

The issues have ranged from the activities of Idlewild Baptist Church providing principal trainings, to the First Priority ministry holding "Jesus Pizza Day" on some campuses.

Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning said his district has been contacted in the past by such organizations seeking a place in the schools, too. Some of the efforts, such as Idlewild's Day of Service and the One Community Now Foundation's food and clothing drives "directly, positively impact the kids we serve," and he welcomes those.

"I'd be crazy not to take advantage of the services that these folks want to provide," he said. "I'm okay with that level of involvement, just like I would be with a Rotary Club or a Kiwanis Club. ... There's no proselytizing."

But Browning, an Idlewild member, draws the line at offering direct religious activities. Though devoutly religious himself, Browning does not see the role of the schools in promoting any religion. In 2013, for instance, he stopped employee-led prayer at sporting events, saying it was not permitted.

"We're not having Jesus Pizza Day in the Pasco district," Browning said. "I probably wouldn't allow t-shirts to be worn by staff that would favor one religion or religious organization over another."

He pointedly declined to criticize or directly comment on the issues before Hillsborough schools, though, saying his responsibility ends at County Line Road.

[Last modified: Friday, January 15, 2016 1:14pm]

    

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