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State board okays voluntary school prayer

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Lou Antonelli
The Ellis County Press

RED OAK - Red Oak Independent School District Superin-tendant Dr. Kay Waggoner took a moment at the Red Oak school board meeting Monday night, Jan. 14, to review and praise a resolution from the State Board of Education regarding school prayer.

Waggoner noted, in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States; the SBOE passed a resolution, which reminds school districts that voluntary school prayer by students is permitted.

Although U.S. Supreme Court precedent has prohibited organized and/or mandatory prayer in school, the same court has upheld the individual's right to free speech as expressed in prayer, even in a school setting.

The state board resolution clearly recapitulates 'the individual's right to pray on a voluntary, non-coercive basis,' said Waggoner.

She concluded the state resolution was 'very well written' and copies had been forwarded to all Red Oak campuses.

In other action, Waggoner told board members planning is starting for the 2002-2003 school calendar and she asked board members for suggestions and input.

One new factor to be taken into consideration this year is during its last meeting the state legislature set a limit on how early the school year can start, noted Waggoner.

Unless a school district requests and is granted a waiver by the Texas Education Agency, she said, the first day of school cannot be earlier than within the week Aug. 21 falls in.

Waggoner asked if for any reason the board wanted an earlier start date, but board indicated there was no support for an earlier opening.

Board member Lynne Grand-staff said she felt it was still important the first semester conclude before the winter holiday break.

Board member Neel Brown said he was unhappy last year the spring break didn't coinincide with that of other area schools.

Waggoner said that happened because Red Oak schools use a nine-week semester, while other area schools use six-week semesters.

Last spring, the calendar fell so if Red Oak had taken the break at the same time as other schools, it would have fallen between the eighth and ninth week of that semester. That would have put the semester finals right after the break, she noted.

However, many parents were inconvenienced because so many trips and activities are planned based on the uniform spring break, and so the administration had already decided to make next year's break match the dates for the region, said Waggoner.

She added she has talked to teachers and told them they will have to plan accordingly for next spring.

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