A complaint from a parent has prompted the Bonneville School District's attorney to recommend that it discontinue prayer at school activities.
Fred Hahn said it appears a claim by Angela Swacina that a prayer was recited prior to a Falls Valley Elementary School assembly at Bonneville High School April 25 was accurate. He said the district will terminate the practice if it is illegal or inappropriate."To the best of my knowledge there was an incident in which a prayer was recited at an elementary school prior to commencement of an activity," Hahn said Tuesday. "I did spend some time further researching the matter and it is going to be my recommendation that they no longer engage in that practice."
The issue surfaced last month when Swacina contacted the American Civil Liberties Union with the complaint. ACLU attorney Stephan Pevar said he advised her that prayer in public schools is unconstitutional and urged her to inform district officials.
Pevar said Swacina got the feeling from Falls Valley Principal Bruce Roberts that the school was not going to change its school prayer policy, so the ACLU contacted Superintendent Richard Goodworth.
"Based upon the information given to us by Ms. Swacina, there appears to be a clear violation of the United States Constitution and of Idaho state law," ACLU attorney Sara Seibert wrote in a May 8 letter to Goodworth.
"Ms. Swacina also informs us that she contacted both you and the principal of Fall Valley Elementary about the prayer, and that neither you nor the principal was aware of any policy against prayer in the public schools," the letter said.
Pevar said he was concerned that Goodworth had not responded to the ACLU's letter and Swacina was willing to file suit if school prayer is not stopped.
"I don't know what he is waiting for," Pevar said. "It's been three weeks."
Hahn said he did not respond sooner because he was not given the ACLU letter until Friday.
"I can assure you that the district desires to be in conformance with the law and will take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that the district does comply with the law," he wrote to the ACLU Friday.
Pevar represented 16-year-old Joey Long, her mother and another family in a religious intrusion case against Rockland School District. An out-of-court settlement was reached last week.