It's safe for students to wear pentagrams to school
From the Roswell Daily Record newspaper: 'Board: Students may wear pentagrams Todd Fuqua Record Staff Writer 'In the face of controversy and protest and under the possible threat of lawsuits, the Roswell School Board voted to approve a proposed change to the school district's dress code and allow student to wear, among other things, pentagrams. The board voted 4-1 to change the dress code located in board Policy 5130, removing a list of symbols, including the pentagram, and any gothic, satanic or occult references in favor of a sentence prohibiting items which evidences membership in any gang.
Board members Michael Alber, Albertina Silva, Martin Pattison and Otto Eachus voted in favor of the change, while Juan Oropesa cast the sole opposing vote. Prior to voting on the code's change, the board voted to temporarily suspend board Policy 1120, which states any policy changes must be read two times in an open meeting before a vote can take place.' Tuesday, September 21, 1999' My observations from the meeting: All board members were in attendance with one linked by phone patch.
Once again, the vocal Church-On-The-Move was strongly represented. There was also a substantial number of various Witches/pagans in attendance. The meeting opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence. Due to approximately 400 people in attendance, the meeting was moved to the Goddard High School gymnasium to accommodate everyone. Security and law enforcement was also very visible at the meeting. After the board returned from executive session, the public was allowed to voice their opinions prior to the board voting. The local media was also there in force to cover the meeting.
The public comments lasted for over 3 hours. Church prayer sessions both inside and outside the meeting area carried on throughout the evening. Most comments from Church-On-The-Move was a rehash of emotional pleas from the last board meeting. There was also talk of removing students from the public school system if the change in dress code was adopted. Many equated the wearing of the pentagram with violence and feared violent acts would come as a result of the board's decision. Others asked the board to not change the code and continue the religious battle in the courts which members were willing to assist in offsetting costs.
There were many slurs against the ACLU and laws that would allow the wearing of the pentagram in any fashion. The general consensus among the church members was that the pentagram is and will always be for them a satanic emblem. Many Witches/pagans spoke as well, both prior to and during the board meeting. They asked for others not to fear them nor their symbol. One Native American held a 'talking stick' and reminded the audience that his symbols of faith had been taken from his people. He stated that he found the Christian cross offensive and that it stood for the destruction of his culture.
Most comments were a call for tolerance, understanding and to allow others the right to wear whatever the symbol of their faith/religion was in the schools. The board was asked to read the current and proposed change to the dress code. The old dress code regarding the pentagram read in part, as: "Any attire associated with gothic, satanic or occult-type activities such as trench coats, knee high boots, all-black clothing, spiked jewelry, upside-down crosses, swastika tattoos, pentagrams, modified pentagrams integrated into satanic and violence mode, etc. are prohibited (these are examples only: not to be interpreted as an all-inclusive list)." The following sentence would be substituted: "No student on school property or at any school activity shall wear, possess, use, distribute, display or sell any clothing, jewelry, emblem, badge, symbol, sign or other item that currently evidences or reflects membership in, or affiliation with, any gang."
Board Member Comments: After the public comments, the board members addressed the audience prior to voting. Mr. Oropesa noted in his comments that he would vote against the change due to the overwhelming amount of calls he had received against the measure. Ms. Silva noted that while she is a devout Christian, she also took an oath to uphold the law. Mr. Alber said that while the policy may be changed, the new language still allows for a great deal of "latitude". "If you read this amendment, you'll see there's a lot to be said.
There's still a lot of protection, and my advice is to read this very closely". It was noted by a member of the Church-On-The-Move that attorneys had been in the executive session that evening with the board members. A few of the audience yelled out they wanted to know what was said and what court cases were cited. Mr. Alber declined on the advice of counsel as dialogue taken place in executive session is privileged and not available to the public.
Aftermath: Some members of the Church-On-The-Move voiced an opinion to seek legal action as a result of the change in policy. Mr. Pattison answered, "If Wicca has religious status in the federal courts, then no board can give preference to some members of the Christian religion any more than to the views of any other religion. We don't make laws, but we must abide by the laws of the country. If you want to take us to court, I invite you to do it. We are on the right side of the law and we are not liable".
One member of Church-On-The-Move who is an attorney was asked by Mr. Alber if he represented the church on this matter. He declined from his seat in the audience. The room was silent and there were no further outbursts from any side. The meeting was adjourned and most left the gym in an orderly fashion. Some members of the church were seen to approach board members for further conversation.
The Witches/pagans in attendance did not feel the need to vocally demonstrate their satisfaction with the outcome. We all knew a victory had been scored and once again, the Constitution had been upheld and represented a minority opinion. The board is to be commended for their action. I am sure none of them expected such a heated issue when they chose to run for their positions. Yet, in the face of hostility, threats, personal opinions and fear, they sided with the logic of the law.
They now know a little of what our founding fathers felt when they signed the Declaration of Independence in a time when the majority opinion was against the action. Let us all pray for peace and tolerance now. Let this be the end to the voice of persecution and fear. Let healing and understanding now begin.