Conway Public Schools has started allowing youth pastors back onto campuses after several weeks of temporarily banning them from school visits, said superintendent Greg Murry in email Friday.
“I appreciate our communities’ patience with us as we worked through this sometimes tedious process,” Murry wrote. “We certainly want to make sure that we are constitutionally correct while honoring the values of this great community.”
Murry 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.
The school district hired Liberty Institute, a nonprofit law firm that seeks to defend religious liberty in the public arena, and the group found last month the district has visitation policies that are “neutral” for both religious and non-religious visitors.
During the last school board meeting, the board approved recommended procedures to further cement the neutrality of the district’s policy and paved the way to reopen schools for visitors. At least one parent said in February that she would wait to see if the policy would prevent pastors from preaching to other children besides those they are supposedly visiting. She said pastors previously had been allowed to walk around and proselytize.
On Tuesday, Murry released a guideline list for visitors that says, in part, “Visitors will refrain from proselytizing while on campus.”
Visitors must present photo identification and be screened, and they are not allowed to distribute literature while on campus, according to the guidelines. Visitors belonging to groups or organizations must meet with the principal or his designee.
Murry also released a new consent form for grades kindergarten through seventh.
“As they get their paperwork together, they will be allowed to come back on campus,” Murry said.
(Staff writer Scarlet Sims can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1246. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)