An alarmed Milton High School parent sent me a social media post that went out this week under the high school’s official Twitter account declaring that prayer may be the most important thing a parent can do for a child in high school. When alerted to the tweet, the district removed it.

Did Milton High School tweet about praying for students cross church-state line?  

A concerned Milton High School parent shared a social media post sent out this week under the school’s Twitter account.

The tweet declares prayer may be the most important thing a parent can do for a child in high school and invites Milton parents to a weekly prayer group that meets off the school campus.

In an email to me, the concerned parent wrote: 

Unless I'm not reading this correctly, a tweet from @MiltonHighSch, a public high school, is saying that "prayer may be the most important thing you can do for your child during their high school years!" The school is using its official Twitter feed to convey some staff member's personal religious beliefs?

I reached out to Fulton County Schools on whether it allows any parent organization to send out recruitment and meeting notices on school social media accounts. I also asked about the rules governing what can go out to the public under the imprimatur of Milton High School or any other Fulton public school.

Here is what Fulton said:

The tweet did not follow school guidelines and has been removed. A well-intended volunteer created the tweet. 

 As we started the school year, staff was reminded of various policies about appropriate use of school resources, including technical equipment, emails, and social media. Schools do have flexibility in the management of their individual websites and social media content. These tools provide a good resource of information to their communities; however, they do have the responsibility of ensuring the content follows Fulton County guidelines. 

Schools and the district will make additional efforts to improve awareness of staff and volunteers of the importance of appropriate use of these resources, and to implement controls ensuring staff are authorizing all information posted on school online resources.

On this issue, U.S. courts have held that promoting religion is not the job of the public schools. However, while schools can’t sponsor religious activities, religious student groups can meet after or before school. Students are also free to bow their heads and pray in school as long as they don’t coerce others to join them.

As the U.S. Department of Education states, students may "read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, pray or study religious materials with fellow students during recess, the lunch hour or other noninstructional time."

But school officials can't compel students to participate in prayer or use schools to advocate for any religion. In the case of  a New Mexico district where a student-led Christian prayer was delivered over the PA system at school football games, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the district. The nation’s highest court said the district's public prayer policy delivers a dangerous message that non-believers ''are outsiders'' in the community and "encourages divisiveness along religious lines of a public-school setting."

Does the Milton tweet do the same? 

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.