Jefferson County Public School Superintendent Donna Hargens sent a memo to all principals reminding them that district employees must remain neutral when discussing religion in school.
Last week, the group Louisville Area Christian Educators, or LACES, held an evening meeting at a district facility where a JCPS principal reportedly discussed ways religion could be introduced to students. Some have raised concerns with the group’s use of a public school facility to deliver their message.
“It’s just horrible precedent,” says attorney Teddy Gordon who has been critical of JCPS in the past. Gordon says all religious and non-religious groups must now be allowed to use the facilities regardless of their message.
Hargens sent an email out to all JCPS principals saying board policy allows any community group to use the facilities after hours. She also reminded principals that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the curriculum and shouldn’t be taught.
Here is more on the Kentucky law addressing creationism in schools:
158.177 Teaching of evolution — Right to include Bible theory of creation.
(1) In any public school instruction concerning the theories of the creation of man and the earth, and which involves the theory thereon commonly known as evolution, any teacher so desiring may include as a portion of such instruction the theory of creation as presented in the Bible, and may accordingly read such passages in the Bible as are deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of creation, thereby affording students a choice as to which such theory to accept.
(2) For those students receiving such instruction, and who accept the Bible theory of creation, credit shall be permitted on any examination in which adherence to such theory is propounded, provided the response is correct according to the instruction received.
(3) No teacher in a public school may stress any particular denominational religious belief.
(4) This section is not to be construed as being adverse to any decision which has been rendered by any court of competent jurisdiction.
Hargens also said public schools may teach about religion in appropriate courses like World History or Literature but those conversations should remain academic and non-devotional.
Here is the email sent to JCPS principals:
The event held last night in the Durrett Auditorium was sponsored by a group called Louisville Area Christian Educators (“ LACES”) and was not sponsored by the Jefferson County Public Schools.
JCPS, through the Board’s policy, allows community groups, religious and non-religious, to use district facilities after school hours. LACES completed the appropriate application for Facility Use.
We have received a number of questions and comments from the community regarding media reports about the content of the event. As a reminder regarding your obligations pursuant to the law, please review the attached documents.
This documents state:
· Public school employees are required to be neutral concerning religion while carrying out their duties as public school employees.
· Public schools may teach students about religion in appropriate courses, such as World History and Literature; such studies are academic, not devotional.
· Creationism and Intelligent Design are not a part of the state science curriculum standards and are not taught.
· Students have a right to pray at school individually, or in groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers so long as they are not disruptive, and such prayer is not organized or led by staff.
The attached guidance covers a number of topics regarding religion in the public schools including activities that staff may engage in. In our next phase of Cultural Competency Training, we will be addressing these issues in greater depth with our administrators and teachers.