Biloxi School District investigating religious promotion complaint

Biloxi School District investigating religious promotion complaint

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Biloxi School District is investigating claims that it may be breaking the law. The attorney for the district sent an email to the Freedom From Religion Foundation Tuesday, stating that district leaders are looking into concerns over alleged religious promotion at two Biloxi schools.

"It was a surprise. We weren't expecting it, obviously," said Biloxi School District Spokeswoman Jennifer Pyron.

Pyron was reacting to a letter sent from the Freedom From Religion Foundation on October 26. In it, the national organization stated that a concerned Biloxi community member reported that administrators at Biloxi High made an announcement in September, reminding students to participate in a "See You at the Pole" prayer rally on school property. The group also claimed the principal at Biloxi Junior High announced over the intercom on October 4 and 5 that students "Shouldn't forget to bring their bibles to school on October 6" for "Bring Your Bible to School Day."

Click here to read the full letter to the Biloxi School District from the Freedom From Religion Foundation

When asked if both announcements took place, Pyron replied, "Well, that's all part of our investigation right now. You know, we are talking to the principals of both schools obviously, and staff, and we're hoping to find those answers as soon as we can. And then we'll take whatever appropriate response that we need to make to the complaint."

Melissa Pickich has four children attending Biloxi schools. She does not have a problem with such religious broadcasts.

"I think it should be up to the children whether they want to participate in any of that, and I think it's all right for the school to go ahead and announce that. It's the children's choice," said Pickich.

But, the FFRF said public schools may not advance, prefer, or promote religion, regardless if the events are voluntary for students. The group also claimed that several staff and faculty members at Biloxi Junior High are actively involved in leading activities for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Club. The Foundation said that type of participation is also illegal.

"Our goal in Biloxi schools always is to have a safe and welcoming environment for all of our students. So we always want to make sure that we're in compliance with any regulations that are out there, and so that's why we're taking this seriously," said Pyron.

The FFRF attorney who sent the letter said he is pleased to hear that the district is investigating the allegations and the group expects to see a report on what actions the district plans to take.

The letter came just a few months after the FFRF sent a complaint to the Ocean Springs School District. The organization threatened legal action against the district if an annual back to school prayer rally was held on school grounds. The district moved the service to a church.

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