By Hemant Mehta
On January 1 of this year, a new law went into effect in Texas. Among other things, HB 283 requires any school district with student enrollment of over 10,000 to essentially make video and audio recordings of all board meetings available to the public. Many districts, large and small, do this on their own already, but the TX law now mandates it for the larger ones.
That gave one reader of this site — let’s call him Bob — an idea: If all of these meetings are being recorded, we can finally have a record of which school boards are praying during meetings. Forget relying on a local citizen who just so happens to attend these meetings and knows to report these incidents.
If there was evidence of prayers at meetings, letters of complaint could be sent to the school boards urging them to stop proselytizing. And who knows, maybe one of these instances could lead to a court challenge that ultimately stops this practice for good. Make no mistake: School board prayers are different from city council invocations because they directly involve students. The Texas Association of School Boards even warns board members about including prayers at meetings:
Given the confusing history of the legality of prayer before school board meetings, what is a school board to do if it wishes to pray before board meetings? Essentially, the board needs to consult very carefully with its local counsel and weigh all of the pros and cons. The legal risks associated with the practice are obvious — courts around the country, and even in our own Fifth Circuit, are not consistent in their analysis. Choosing not to pray at school board meetings allows a school district to avoid the time and expense of confronting a legal challenge…
So even Texas is telling school boards not to pray if they want to avoid a legal challenge.
But even with all the data out there, someone would have to keep track of all those board meetings.
That’s just what Bob did.
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