Former Nfl Star Is Out Of Bounds At School


Pushes Commerce, Christ On Captive Kids

March 22, 1992|By Jeff Griffith

The assembly seemed like a good idea.

A former pro football player would share his story with middle school students. He would explainhow alcohol affected his life and how he straightened himself out.

A sports hero, a role model, a cautionary tale.

It is the kindof anti-alcohol message that teachers and parents want kids to hear.

And so Herman Weaver, former NFC punter of the year, former star for the Detroit Lions and the Seattle Seahawks and, according to a leading sports magazine, one of the top 20 punters of all time, came toCarroll.

At Westminster's West Middle School, he told students that he had bowed to peer pressure and had used alcohol because he thought doing so would impress others. He explained that his low self-image led him to look for ways to feel better about himself.

But alcohol wasn't the answer.

He was a successful professional athlete, in the limelight.

But then a crisis struck. His little girl fell out of a tree, seriously injuring herself. He didn't know where to turn.

And this is where Weaver stepped over the line. He reported thathe changed his life by promising God that he would do anything to save his daughter. Weaver gave himself to Jesus.

Good for Herman, most of us will say. If his life was filled with questions and he foundhis personal answer, more power to him.

But let him deliver his message in the Sunday school, not in the public school.

Middle School kids at an assembly are a captive audience -- they have no choice whether or not to attend.

Any message they receive at the assemblycomes to them under the color of authority and with the implied endorsement of the school.

Whatever we may think about the effectiveness of our educational system, the messages kids pick up in school come across with tremendous impact.

Weaver proceeded to distribute file cards to the children. He asked them to write their names and addresses on the cards and to tell him how they feel about letting Jesus into their lives. He asked them to place a checkmark in the corner ofthe card if they wished to be contacted.

By now, the football hero was way over the line. But he would go further.

He had cards foreveryone, he said. Teachers would pass them out in homeroom, he said.

The cards look like the typical sports personality cards enthusiasts trade and collect. On the front we see Herman Weaver, wearing jersey No. 92, white letters on orange.

On the back are his vital stats -- height, weight, college team, pro teams, position, honors.

But instead of a narrative expounding on his athletic exploits, the card is full of personal testimony.

"Only God could fill my emptiness," the card read.

The card bears the legend -- in bold print -- "Preferred Risk Group" of West Des Moines, Iowa. Just below that, in fine print, are the words "America's non-drinkers insurance company."

Herman Weaver killed two birds with one stone: he brought both Christ and commerce into the Carroll Public Schools.

Both are welcome in the United States and in this community. But neither belongs in an assembly of captive middle schoolers.

Two members of the Carroll County Board of Education -- President Cheryl McFalls and Joseph Mish -- accompanied Weaver on his visit to West Middle. They either knew or should have known that his message would run afoul of the U.S. Constitution and would violate school board policy, a policy that bansspecifically religious or specifically commercial messages from the schools.

If the representative of a non-traditional -- or most especially non-Christian -- religion had attempted the same thing, the board would most certainly have thwarted the attempt.

If an insurance company asked to distribute promotional materials in the schools, the board would deny the request.

Why is Herman Weaver different?

The students got the message. The next day, a student told her teacher, "That sounded like Sunday school." Another asked, "Didn't that violate the separation of church and state?"

The students are learning their social studies lessons quite well.

But they are also learning that those who are charged with the dual responsibilities of providing them with an education and upholding the Constitution have anot-so-hidden agenda that respects neither.

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