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Dade Coaches Told To Stop Prayers

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High-school football coaches in Dade County, Fla., have been ordered by the superintendent of schools to stop leading their teams in prayer before playing games.

Leonard Britton, superintendent of the Dade County Public Schools, made the decision last month after a community member brought the matter to his attention and on the advice of school-board lawyers who determined that the exercise violated the constitutional separation of church and state, according to James Fleming, assistant superintendent for administrative operations.

'Common Practice'

In what he termed a "common practice," Mr. Fleming said school officials were leading students in prayer before football games.

Although the board's lawyers determined it was acceptable for students to pray on their own, Mr. Fleming said, "when you've got a teacher leading a prayer, that represents a violation of the separation of church and state."

Coaches, educators, and community members have responded to the decision with disappointment, Mr. Fleming said.

"We have received feedback from everyone. ... There appears to be a large group of people that would desire to maintain things such as the prayer before the games," Mr. Fleming explained.--ab

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