A dozen students attending Heritage High School in Vancouver, Wash., located on the states southern border, were suspended on Friday for praying at school.
Ten in the group were suspended for ten days while two received one-day, in-school suspensions for holding a morning prayer meeting. The group has now sought out legal assistance.
This situation underscores the ignorance of school officials regarding the constitutional rights of students," said Liberty Counsel President Anita L. Staver in a statement. Liberty Counsel is a nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom.
According to the groups statement, the affected students had met together a few weeks ago to initiate a school prayer club. They were refused by the schools vice principal, Alex Otoupal, who explained that they could not meet in a private room.
The individuals, who met for about two weeks before 7 a.m., decided to pray in the school cafeteria, instead, where an alleged Satanist student complained to the school office. The area was considered to be a well-trafficked area, and the prayer meeting supposedly would disrupt education
The prayer group was instructed by the vice principal to go and pray outside rather than in the cafeteria. The students persisted in praying in the lunch room, however, because of the inclement weather outside. As a result, they were suspended for ten days.
"It is absolutely outrageous that the school allowed one Satanist student to exercise a heckler's veto over the other students' speech, said Staver.
She also noted, "Most of the students who were suspended are immigrants from Russia. We must show them that America is still the land of the free. School officials must immediately reverse the suspensions."
The group was given brochures about the rights and responsibilities regarding prayer in school before the suspensions. They could pray in school as long as they had a club advisor.
"This is not about prayer," explained Ann Sosky, principal of the 2,400-student high school, in the Oregonian. "They can pray, but they have to follow procedure."
The twelve students will be assisted by Legal Counsel in an attempt to resolve the matter.