The ACLU of Northwest Florida has sent a letter to the Escambia School District requesting (demanding) that we curb behavior at Jacqueline Harris Preparatory Academy, an Escambia County Public Charter School, which the ACLU asserts is unconstitutional:
The ACLU takes issue with the JHPA website, requesting the district have JHPA staff:
“Remove the unconstitutional religious content from its web page”—apparently, the biographical statement about the school’s namesake is just toooooooo religious… here is what the JHPA web page says:
“The Jacqueline Harris Preparatory Academy was named after the late Jacqueline Watson Harris who demonstrated clearly her faith and belief in God. She loved children and believed in each child's innate ability to learn, however, she believed that the school, parents, community, and church must form a linkage and work together to help our children withstand and overcome the ills of society”
I tend to agree with that statement above—and I’m not certain that this biographical stub, in and of itself, is unconstitutional. Just my opinion. But more importantly, is not the statement above true? With all of the ills in society these days, particularly in the inner cities and at schools mired in poverty, such a strong statement of the course of action necessary to address these problems is WHAT WE NEED! Is saying the founder of the school, in biographical context, was a person of faith UNCONSTITUTIONAL!! ..Or is this a freedom of speech issue, and does not JHPA have the right to identify their namesake as a Christian??
So now the ACLU is going on the attack against a school that is trying, and succeeding, in educating some of the most difficult populations of students in our area----because the ACLU feels students are being pressured into Praying. WOW!
The letter we received today demands that the district:
1. Issue an immediate directive to JHPA employees saying prayer and prayer leading by staff is not tolerated
2. Investigate instances where JHPA officials have used their public position to advance religious beliefs
3. For each violation, have the violation individually addressed and appropriately instruct officials involved (counsel them) to prevent further instances
I hope JHPA tells the ACLU they are exercising their right of free speech by presenting the founder’s biographical information on the webpage-- and would expect no less from the ACLU than the ACLU’s complete support of their right to do so!