Frisco ISD fell under the national spotlight last week when the Texas Office of the Attorney General sent the district a letter raising concerns about its prayer room at Liberty High School.
The prayer room was designated in 2009 to accommodate Muslim students who were needing to leave campus for two or three hours every Friday to pray, according to Wingspan, Liberty High School’s student-led news outlet.
The AG’s letter to FISD states that the prayer room seems to be dedicated only to Muslim students.
“It is unclear if students of other faiths may use the room at the same time or at other times during the week,” the AG’s letter states.
The district responded to the AG’s letter that same day, asking for any evidence or documentation of students being denied access to this prayer room.
“[The prayer room] is open to Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists; anyone that wants to go in there can do so, and they do utilize the room,” said Chris Moore, FISD’s executive director of communications and community relations.
The AG’s office website does not show a reply to FISD’s response.
Here are some facts regarding prayer in school:
- The First Amendment prohibits government-sponsored religious activity but protects the rights of an individual’s religious activities. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “‘nothing in the Constitution … prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the school day,’ and students may pray with fellow students during the school day.’”
- Students are allowed to pray while not engaged in school activities or instruction, according to the DOE.
- Students are allowed to organize prayer groups, and those groups must be given the same access to school facilities as other non-curricular groups, according to the Texas Education Code.
- Schools are allowed to dismiss students from class for off-premise religious activities, according to the DOE. According to the Texas Freedom Network, schools can also adjust class schedules in order to release students for off-premise religious activities.
- The Texas Education Code states that a school must allow a student to be excused in order to observe a religious holy day. The student’s absence cannot be penalized for observing a holy day.
Here are some facts about FISD’s prayer room, according to Moore:
- The prayer room at Liberty High School was designated in 2009.
- Students of all religious backgrounds are welcome to access the prayer room.
- The prayer room is open to students from 2:05-2:35 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- Heritage High School also has a room dedicated for prayer, and other FISD campuses may have prayer rooms on an as-needed basis, Moore said. Liberty High School’s prayer room is visited by the most students, he said.