Bible Open

To the best of my knowledge this event is held on September 18.
See below for Federal Guidelines for Religious Expression in Public Schools

Gate City High School students gather for "See You at the Pole Day"

Sullivan North's version of the event drew a record turnout. By KEVIN CASTLE GATE CITY - One by one, the teen-agers joined hands, closed their eyes, bowed their heads, and participated in an annual event Wednesday morning that had greater significance this year. The Gate City High School campus was filled with more than 150 students for "See You at the Pole Day," a yearly event started in Burleson, Texas, 11 years ago that allows students to congregate at the school's flagpole for prayer before the first class reporting bell.

At 8:05 a.m., the group held three individual prayers for the country, its leaders and the teachers of the school, then formed a circle around the pole for their daily devotional. "It's sad that it takes something like this to get Americans to pray, but God, whatever needs to be done, let your will be done.

We pray that your justice will be carried out and you will continue to have a hand on our nation," said Gate City junior Seth McConnell in the opening prayer, referring to last week's terrorist attacks. FCA President Becky Burke said morning prayer time has become another ritual that students take time for every day, and she said she feels fortunate to live in a country where you can pray.

"We are just very thankful that our school does allow us this time every morning to participate in prayer. I think it's great that we had so many of our classmates here this morning to help us and to pray for our country,'' Burke said.

FCA Secretary Corrine Edwards said the turnout Wednesday was encouraging since prayer group numbers at the school had been down near the end of the last school year. The organization's Vice President Sean Devlin said that although last Tuesday's tragedy was heartbreaking, he and his classmates were trying to look for something positive in the aftermath.

"All things happen for a reason. We saw the pictures and we pray for the families affected, but something good is going to come out of this. I think it is bringing more people together in prayer. Good things can still happen," Devlin said.

Gate City-based youth evangelist Mike Jenkins, who attended Wednesday's event, said his office has been busy in the past few days, answering questions and offering comfort to parents and students. He is anticipating the struggle over prayer in school could take on a different light with the events of Sept. 11, but Jenkins said he admires the students of Gate City for the stand they take.

"This is legal. It is all student-led, and it takes place before the day officially begins. The administration (at Gate City High) has been great to work with the kids in letting them do things like this,'' Jenkins said. "In regards to the events last week, I think it was a huge wake-up call to America. We can go by the rules, and I think getting God back into the schools can be accomplished."

According to the National Network of Youth, which operates the "See You at the Pole" Web site, the event was anticipated to take place in all 50 states on Wednesday involving nearly 3 million students. It occurs at different times during the year in several foreign countries, including Korea, Australia, Canada and Japan.

Copyright 2001 Kingsport Times-News.
Published September 19, 2001

Federal Guidelines for Religious Expression in Public Schools

What are the ground rules for religious expression in public schools?

Secretary of Education Richard Riley, at the direction of President Clinton, issued guidelines in 1995 and updated them in 1998 to reflect recent court decisions.

A synopsis of the guidelines:

  • Students have the same right to engage in individual or group prayer and religious discussion during the school day as they do to engage in other comparable activity.

  • Local school authorities have "substantial discretion" to impose rules of order but may not structure the rules to discriminate against religious activity or speech.

  • Students may attempt to persuade peers about religious topics as they would any other topics, but schools should stop such speech that constitutes harassment.

  • Students may participate in before- or after-school events with religious content, such as "see-you-at-the-flagpole" gatherings, on the same terms they can participate in other non curricular activities on school premises.

  • Teachers and administrators are prohibited from either encouraging or discouraging religious activity and from participating in such activity with students.

  • Public schools may not provide religious instruction but may teach about religion.

  • Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork and other written and oral assignments. The work should be judged by ordinary academic standards and against other "legitimate pedagogical concerns." Students may distribute religious literature on the same terms other literature unrelated to curriculum can be distributed.

  • Schools have "substantial discretion" to excuse students from lessons objectionable on religious or other conscientious grounds. But students generally don't have a federal right to be excused from lessons inconsistent with religious beliefs or practices.

  • Schools may actively teach civic values and morals, even if some of those values also happen to be held by religions.

  • Students may display religious messages on clothing to the same extent they may display other comparable messages.

[Source: Kevin Simpson. "Nation searches its soul" (sidebar: "Federal Guidelines"), Denver Post, 20 February 2000.] Webmaster homepage banner