Student contacts Freedom From Religion Foundation concerning teacher, principal

A Tiffin Columbian student contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation after a “See You At The Pole” event.

The event was conducted the morning of Sept. 25, and had an additional event during lunch called “free pizza, devotion, and prayer.”

According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the event was organized and promoted by a teacher, Jeanette Marshall, who then led students in prayer during the event. The student who filed the report also informed the foundation the event was announced over the school’s public address system during the morning announcements, and that Principal Mark Verroco commented over the announcements that he thought prayer was “an important thing to do.”

The organization hosting the event was Students Taking A New Direction. STAND is a non-curricular group, not sponsored by the school, Superintendent Donald Coletta said.

It is by law and school policy that a teacher cannot organize or participate in an event conducted by a non-curricular group. They are there to supervise the students. The event hast to be student-led, Coletta said.

The foundation claims the actions of Verroco were ill-advised and the actions of Marshall were inappropriate and illegal. As school officials, neither Verroco nor Marshall may encourage, organize or participate in prayer because public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion.

In a letter responding to the foundation, Coletta said, he is “well aware of the sensitive constitutional issues, and that he agreed, upon investigation, that the principal’s announcement and the teacher’s conduct were inappropriate. Steps with both individuals (and others) have been taken to make sure school personnel are both aware of the legal boundaries and that they act within them.”

Coletta said he has met with Verroco and Marshall to emphasize the law and that a teacher cannot lead these types of activities, they are just to supervise. He said they are to continue to monitor the situation and to make sure individuals stay within their legal boundaries.