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Bible appeal made
During school board meeting

Friday, June 27, 2014

From Bulletin staff reports

A local pastor wants Gideons International to be able to distribute Bibles in Martinsville schools.

Bill Moss, pastor of Hill Memorial Baptist Church, briefly discussed the issue with the Martinsville School Board on Thursday.

The school division’s policy, according to Superintendent Pam Heath, is that information distributed in schools — but not by the system itself — must be from either a government agency or a nonprofit organization, and the intent of the distribution must be for educational purposes.

Gideons International, according to its website, is an association of business and professional men and their wives who tell people about Jesus by sharing personal testimony and providing copies of the Bible or the New Testament.

Moss told the school board that Christian organizations are nonprofits and “the Bible is the most educational book you can read” because it contains history as well as “instructions for daily living.”

Also, Moss said he thinks the U.S. Supreme Court determined that handing out Bibles in public schools is legal. He added that the school division’s bylaws show that the schools should approach religion from “a diversity perspective” in which students and staff should be aware of people’s different beliefs.

Moss spoke for five minutes, the allotted time for an individual to speak during the citizen comments portion of school board meetings. Chairman Robert Williams interrupted Moss after his five minutes were up.

The school board did not discuss or make a decision on the issue. Williams said he and the board will review the information that Moss presented.

After the meeting, Williams said the information will be passed along to the board’s attorney, Douglas Guynn of Harrisonburg. Guynn works for the law firm of BotkinRose PLC and counsels school boards and other educational organizations, his biography on the firm’s website shows.

Guynn also is the city attorney for Staunton.

“I’ve not received a request from the Gideons to distribute Bibles,” Heath said before the meeting. Furthermore, she said, there has “been no formal discussion by the school board” on the issue.

The school board held its special meeting on Thursday mainly to consider and approve revisions to various school division policies.

Heath said the revisions generally are based on state law changes adopted by the General Assembly this year.

One revision details what is appropriate dress for students. Previous policy simply stated that students’ clothing and appearances should not detract from the educational process or create health or safety problems.

The revised policy bans clothing with language or images that are vulgar or discriminatory or promote illegal or violent conduct, such as unlawful use of drugs and weapons. Clothing with gang symbols also is banned.

“Clothing should fit, be neat and clean, and conform to standards of safety, good taste and decency,” the policy now states.

That means clothing that exposes cleavage, private parts, the midriff or undergarments, or that is otherwise sexually provocative, is banned, the revision shows.

Examples it mentions including sagging pants, tube and halter tops, blouses without backs and clothes made of see-through materials.

Head coverings are banned unless they are for religious or medical reasons.

Students could be sent home if they do not comply, the revision shows. It adds that parents of students “requiring accommodation” due to medical issues or religious beliefs should contact school principals.

Another revision is that electronic cigarettes, like those containing tobacco, are banned on school property — including buses — and at school-sponsored activities.

Board Vice Chairman Carolyn McCraw asked whether the ban applies to athletic fields. Heath said yes.

“We are essentially tobacco free” in the schools, Heath said.

Policy shows the schools consider tobacco to include “any other product packaged for smoking,” but chewing tobacco also is banned.

“An adult can have them (tobacco products) on their person” but cannot use them on school property, she said.

However, it is illegal for minors to use them or to possess them, Heath noted.

A policy regarding concussions sustained by student athletes was adopted. It shows that athletes who receive concussions will not be allowed to return to play without a written doctor’s release but even then, a coach can decide not to allow a student to play if concussion symptoms are observed.

Policy changes were unanimously approved in one vote with little discussion. Williams said board members had reviewed the changes on their own.

Board member J.C. Richardson Jr., who did not seek reappointment and will leave the board at the end of this month, did not attend the meeting.

Williams introduced board members to Victor Correa, who recently was appointed to the board by Martinsville City Council. Correa works for CenturyLink.

The board selected member Craig Dietrich to be its delegate to the Virginia School Boards Association. Rives Coleman agreed to be the alternate.

Following a closed session called to discuss personnel matters, the board:

• Approved the resignations of teachers Michell Meyer, Kathy D. Thacker and Debra Easley.

• Approved the following appointments for 2014-2015: Sheridan Clemons, occupational therapist, and teachers Brittany Estep, Emma Knighten, LaToria McLaurin, Lauren Croft, Connie Granderson, Kelly Martin and Ronnell Hairston.

• Appointed Logan Harr as assistant football coach for Martinsville Middle School and Knighten as Martinsville High School’s varsity girls cross country head coach.


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