Law & Courts

Federal Appeals Court Says Arkansas District Flouted Order on Prayer

By Andrew Trotter — April 18, 2006 1 min read

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower-court ruling finding an Arkansas school district in contempt of a 2004 court order not to orchestrate or supervise prayers at school graduation or baccalaureate ceremonies.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis, found that a baccalaureate service at De Valls Bluff High School in spring 2005 clearly violated a federal district court’s injunction.

“The [school district] contends that the baccalaureate service was a student-organized event, but there was ample evidence on the record to demonstrate that school employees were involved with almost every aspect of the service’s preparation,” the court panel said in a unanimous opinion on April 4.

The court noted that two school employees serving as senior-class sponsors met with students during school hours to plan the baccalaureate service. They also supervised and advised the planning; produced and copied the program for the service, using school resources; and handed out copies of the program at the service.

But the court stopped short of imposing a penalty on the 5,900-student De Valls Bluff school district, beyond a warning to desist or face more severe sanctions.

Steve Warnock, a former teacher at De Valls Bluff High who had attended the service, had asked the courts to fine the school district. Mr. Warnock brought the initial lawsuit two years ago, after he attended mandatory faculty meetings and compulsory in-service training at which prayers were held.

A federal district court had barred the school district from offering prayers at any meeting that Mr. Warnock was required to attend. On appeal, however, the 8th Circuit court barred the district from engaging in religious activity involving any teachers, not just Mr. Warnock.

In the 2004 appellate opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Morris S. Arnold wrote: “We believe that it is the government’s endorsement of a particular religious message that constitutes the constitutional violation here.”

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
Family Engagement for Student Success With Dr. Karen Mapp
Register for this free webinar to learn how to empower and engage families for student success featuring Karen L. Mapp.
Content provided by Panorama Education & PowerMyLearning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

User Experience Analyst
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Senior Business Analyst - 12 Month Contract
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Senior Director Marketing
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Camelot Education
Coordinator of Strategic Partnerships
Camden, New Jersey, United States
Camelot Education

Read Next

Law & Courts Federal Appeals Court Upholds School's Removal of 4th Grader's Essay on LGBTQ Rights
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit backs a principal who said the essay was age-inappropriate for inclusion in a school booklet.
4 min read
Image shows a courtroom and gavel.
imaginima/E+
Law & Courts U.S. Supreme Court Is Asked to Take Up Harvard's Consideration of Race in Admissions
Lower courts rejected claims by Students for Fair Admissions that the Harvard policies discriminate against Asian-American applicants.
3 min read
Rowers paddle along the Charles River past the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass. on March 7, 2017.
Rowers paddle along the Charles River past the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass.
Charles Krupa/AP
Law & Courts Accused Texas School Shooter to Remain at State Hospital
Doctors say the student accused of fatally shooting 10 people at a Texas high school in 2018 remains incompetent to stand trial.
1 min read
Santa Fe High School freshman, Jai Gillard writes messages on each of the 10 crosses representing victims in front the school in Santa Fe, Texas on May 21, 2018.
Santa Fe High School freshman, Jai Gillard writes messages on each of the 10 crosses representing victims in front the school in Santa Fe, Texas on May 21, 2018.
Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle via AP
Law & Courts School District Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Scope of Transgender Student Rights
A Virginia district appeals a ruling in the case involving Gavin Grimm's effort to use a restroom consistent with his gender identity.
3 min read
Transgender student Gavin Grimm challenged a policy of the Gloucester County, Va., school board that barred him from using the men's restroom. The school board has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.
Transgender student Gavin Grimm challenged a policy of the Gloucester County, Va., school board that barred him from using the men's restroom. The school board has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.
Kristen Zeis/The Daily Press via AP