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CPS approves policy, plans to reopen schools to minister visits

Posted: February 12, 2013 - 9:40pm

The Conway school board approved recommended procedures Tuesday to make sure schools’ visitation practices are “neutral” for both religious and nonreligious visitors.

The change means youth ministers and others will be allowed back on school campuses in the coming weeks, superintendent Greg Murry said.

The move came after Liberty Institute, a nonprofit law firm that seeks to defend religious liberty in the public arena, released a report Thursday saying the school district’s policy of allowing non-student visitors during lunchtime is “neutral” and does not advance or inhibit religion.

Murry temporary halted visits to students during lunchtime after Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for separation of church and state nationwide, sent a letter in October telling the school to stop allowing youth ministers access to children. In January, Murry met with ministers to say they could not visit schoolchildren during lunchtime while the school sorted out its legal standing.

Officials said the Foundation threatened a lawsuit, although an official with the Foundation said last week no litigation is planned.

Liberty suggested Tuesday amendments to strengthen the school’s current policy against any lawsuits. Jeff Matter, general counsel for Liberty, said the amendments are putting into writing what the schools already do. He said the policy, as is, is defendable.

“This is a good policy,” Mateer said. “The policy they adopted tonight is a better policy. If they apply the policy, there will be no constitutional problems.”

Some parents are concerned that Liberty’s research didn’t take into account ministers having unsupervised access to children — even roaming to different children — while they were visiting children at school lunches. Diane Robinson said her middle-school daughter came home with bookmarkers and said every Monday ministers talked to any student. She had not given permission for a minister to talk to her daughter. Robinson said she went to the school and witnessed ministers allowed to talk to children.

“It’s unfair to say that they don’t have unique access — they do,” Robinson said. “I’m only allowed to eat with my child, but someone who is a stranger to me and my child is allowed to roam and talk to kids.”

In November, Robinson sent the school a letter complaining about the ministers. Although the Foundation’s letter mentioned similar activities at Carl Stuart, Robinson’s daughter does not attend that school. She said she’s not concerned about ministers visiting children in their congregation with parental consent, but youth ministers were talking to other students.

“It becomes my business when it’s to my child they are speaking,” Robinson said.

Robinson said she takes her child to Sunday school and goes to church. She hopes the school district’s new policy will make a difference, but she is concerned that Liberty’s report didn’t address what she saw at the school and said she wasn’t sure the new policy, basically the same as the old one, will be followed.

No parents spoke during Tuesday’s board meeting, but Liberty’s report was released late Thursday and parents calling Friday were told they missed the deadline to be on the agenda.

Mateer said no parents had come forward with concerns and that all Liberty could do is ask questions to grasp what was happening at the schools. He said in his experience, the district will apply the policy.

Changes include having visitors to the high school and junior high school maintain a list of each student with whom the visitor is affiliated. The principal of the school may exclude any visitor from engaging with students not on the visitor’s list. At elementary and middle schools, visitors may only have access to students whose parent or legal guardian has consented to the visit.

Principals can segregate visitors “if he or she deems” it important, Mateer said.

The school district is also seeking to take out bids for new screening equipment to do background checks on visitors, said K.K. Bradshaw, director of Administrative Services at the district.

Mateer said the school district is handling visitations and the policy appropriately. Other school districts are looking at Conway as a model, he said.

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fdsjfsdjfsda543543543
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fdsjfsdjfsda543543543 02/12/13 - 10:28 pm
11
7

Allowing "ministers" (ie cult

Allowing "ministers" (ie cult leaders) DOES advance religion in the public schools despite what this pro-bible banger advocacy group says. These people have no business and no right to conduct their proselytizing activities in a public school during school hours.

Boo hiss shame on you to both the superintendent and the school board for approving this load of absolute malarkey! The idea of religious ministers having constitutional rights in the public schools is absolute [filtered word] pure and simple.

And to top it all off, this mother in the article can't visit her own kid during lunch but these bible thumpers can. I hope the district gets their pants sued off over this.

cjames123
12
Points
cjames123 02/12/13 - 11:06 pm
3
14

Allowing Ministers

Bunch of devil hate inbred in you. The day you meet your maker; you will change your mind....

well....
446
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well.... 02/12/13 - 11:14 pm
14
2

hmmmm

How christian you are to point that out.
Matthew 7:1, "Judge not that ye be not judged."

em429
818
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em429 02/13/13 - 02:57 pm
1
3

Judge

So are you judging him for judging another? I'm not judging;)

fdsjfsdjfsda543543543
2357
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fdsjfsdjfsda543543543 02/13/13 - 02:08 am
12
6

I've met my maker(s). I call

I've met my maker(s). I call them mom and dad. Lovely people...

ARVoiceofLogic
4994
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ARVoiceofLogic 02/13/13 - 09:39 am
11
3

cjames is typical

Instead of expressing genuine concern and perhaps a little kindness to illustrate what his religion is supposed to be about, he gives the typical, "Well when I'm in heaven you get to be burning in hell for eternity. Haha I win."

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
-Mahatma Gandhi

fdsjfsdjfsda543543543
2357
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fdsjfsdjfsda543543543 02/13/13 - 12:49 pm
4
3

Amen!

Amen!

mikeng1994
8196
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mikeng1994 02/13/13 - 01:21 pm
2
6

I understand what you are

I understand what you are saying and agree.

There are too many people who think they are Christians just because they attend a church. Too bad for them it does not work that way.

I am a firm believer in God and Christ, I do not attend church hardly ever. I try to live right by what I feel is is morally right and try not to be hypocritical by forcing it on others. For me on of the most rediculous questins you hear us Christians ask is, "What would Jesus do?" Well that answer is too easy, he would do right. The question you have to ask, and you can only ask yourself is, "What will YOU do?"

That is how I try to live day to day. I don't always accomplish that, but i do my best. If it is not your way then its all good with me. Church does not define you as a person.

em429
818
Points
em429 02/13/13 - 03:14 pm
2
3

I agree mostly with you, but in song

"The Church is not a building...
The Church is not a steeple...
the Church is not a resting place...
The Church is the People"

Being Christian has nothing to do with attending a building.

"I am the Church, you are the Church, we are the Church together. All who follow Jesus, all around the world.. yes we're the Church together"

This thread of comments really has nothing to do with the actual topic per se, but i thought i'd join the fun.

All visitors allowed and monitored, or none. Should just be cut and dried. Obviously with exceptions to criminals, restraining orders, etc

arkansan
741
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arkansan 02/12/13 - 11:03 pm
15
2

recruiting new members......

"I have personally witnessed a representative of a religious organization roaming a middle school cafeteria speaking to children at will. My child has been approached, given bookmarks, and invited to meetings, all without my permission. This has happened at two different middle schools in two school years."

Why is are schools being used for recruiting? If they want my child to go to their church, THEY NEED TO ASK ME FIRST!!! I AM THE PARENT!!! DON"T SUPERSEDE ME!!!!!

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