Prayer before MSA indicative of problems in Balto. schools

March 16, 2011

Let me begin by commending all of the excellent principals and teachers who work in Baltimore City Public Schools. I do not want this to come off as the type of educator bashing that we have been seeing lately; however, the article "Prayer service at city school called improper" (March 14) has shown one of the many deeply rooted issues with Baltimore City Public Schools and why they, as a whole, do not perform as well as other systems in the state: poor leadership. The fact that a principal (and many others who just haven't been caught) ignored very basic constitutional standards goes to show how poor the quality of leadership is in many schools, and allowing prayer in schools is just the tip of the iceberg.

I have taught at several schools in Baltimore City, some great and some not so great. The not so great schools generally had not so great principals and/or staff. In addition to principals using improper grammar and mispronouncing middle school level vocabulary over the PA system, praying seems to be quite common in many schools. I have heard prayers over the announcements, prayers before field trips and prayers during every assembly or ceremony. My courses in school law and general understanding of the public school system dictate that this is unacceptable, yet the people in charge felt that it was appropriate. I am not going to say that prayer should never take place in schools, but I recognize that despite my religious beliefs, the law is the law. I have prayed with colleagues before and after the school day without any students or parents present, and I understand how important this was to some of the employees of the school.

The principal at Tench Tilghman printed and distributed a flyer promoting a prayer group with Bible verses. How can anyone with advanced college degrees, most likely making a six-figure salary, not know that this is in violation of the Constitution as it applies to public schools? How does one climb the ranks all the way to principal without understanding that this is not appropriate? Furthermore, Jimmy Gittings, the president of the principals' union came to her defense. "Gittings, a proponent of prayer in schools, said he fully supported Yon's actions. He said he was aware that it wasn't constitutional, but he still believed in the message." This is yet another example of someone in a leadership role who apparently cares very little about his professional responsibilities and the standards of the public school system. I find it ridiculous that he is going to defend the actions of this principal who has no leg to stand on in this case. If this type of ignorance is what children are exposed to on a daily basis, are we surprised that there is an achievement gap?

Janice Rozell, Baltimore

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