UPDATED: Valley Public School Students Led in Prayer at Mandatory Event

Published: Dec. 16, 2015 at 4:45 PM EST
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UPDATE: 12/16/2015 7 p.m.

Leaders with Augusta County Public Schools addressed concerns over a prayer held at a public school event.

Superintendent Dr. Eric Bond said in a statement sent to WHSV:

"A community member was invited to participate and deliver an invocation during the ground-breaking ceremony for the new Cassell Elementary School. She is not an employee of the Augusta County School Board. Neither the principal nor Dr. Bond directed the speaker to deliver a sectarian message and they were not provided an advance copy of her remarks for review. The principal and Dr. Bond were not aware before the event began that this invited community member planned to deliver a sectarian message."

Public school students from Cassell Elementary School were led in prayer at a mandatory school event Wednesday afternoon.

The prayer was part of a ground breaking for the new elementary school.

During the prayer, the speaker said, "This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice."

According to the Virginia State Board of Education, "It is firmly settled in the law that the Establishment Clause forbids school-sponsored prayer or religious indoctrination, as well as any school initiative designed to endorse prayer generally or sponsor a particular religious viewpoint."

This prayer follows another controversy in Augusta County Public Schools. Some parents in the community are voicing their concerns over a geography assignment about religion that asked students to transcribe calligraphy involving the creed of a non-Christian faith.

We're working to get a comment from school leaders on Wednesday's prayer. We'll post an update here as soon as we have new information.