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Missouri Family E-News

April 22, 2014

Legislature Moves to Replace Common
Core Plan      


The Missouri House has adopted legislation calling for the abandonment of Common Core educational standards.  


The House approved legislation sponsored by Representative Kurt Bahr of O'Fallon that would require the development of new academic performance standards "in place of the common core state standards."


The legislation, House Bill 1490, was endorsed by the House on a vote of 132-19, and has now been heard by the Senate Education Committee.  


Representative Bahr's bill was considerably reworked during debate on the House floor.  His original bill would have prohibited the State Board of Education from implementing the Common Core State Standards."  


The State Board of Education voted in 2009 to implement the controversial Common Core standards.  The Board's decision followed unilateral action by Governor Jay Nixon to enlist Missouri in the Common Core national consortium.


The Common Core standards have been pioneered by the National Governors Association in concert with the Council of Chief State School Officers.  They have been vehemently opposed by many social conservatives and proponents of local control of public education.


Under the revised bill approved by the House, the State Board of Education will be required to appoint "work groups" by October 1st of this year.  The work groups would be charged with the development of new statewide academic performance standards.   


The new recommended standards must be submitted to the State Board of Education by October 1st of 2015.  The State Education Board would then be responsible for adopting and implementing new educational standards to take effect for the 2016-2017 school year.


Eight different work groups would be established covering the subject areas of English language arts, mathematics, science, and history and governments.   


The 14 members of each work group would be selected from teachers's organizations, school boards, and school administrators.  The Governor, Lt. Governor, and legislative leaders would also make appointments. Each work group would include four parents of students currently enrolled in the public schools.


The Senate Education Committee has already heard similar legislation sponsored by Senator John Lamping of St. Louis County.   


"The intent of the legislation is to begin an open and transparent process to ultimately adopt Missouri standards,"  Lamping says.  "It was because of the lack of openness and transparency that we are where we are today."     



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High School Student
Says She Was Told
to Ditch Her Bible  

The subject of student religious freedom reached a flash point in the Potosi School District in Washington County this past week when two high school students claim they were told that their Bibles were not welcome at school.

15-year old Kiela English was reportedly walking down a hallway at Potosi High School with a friend with their Bibles open.  English says they were discussing a passage from  Scripture.  She says that a teacher then approached them and told them that "this wasn't the place" for a Bible and that they had to put it away, and that "they can't be pushing their religion on people."

The incident prompted a vigorous viral reponse and media coverage after English's mother, Angela English, posted news of the incident on Facebook.  "I was outraged.  They weren't pushing religion.  They were two friends walking down the hallway.  There's so many other things at school [teachers] could be looking for, but they targeted two girls with a Bible."

Students responded to the incident by bringing their  Bibles to school en masse the following day.  "We asked the children to bring their Bibles and carry them--not to preach or shove religion in anyone's face--but to show they have the right to carry the Bible,"  said Angela English.

"When I dropped my daughter off at school, there were kids waving their Bibles at us,"  Angela English observed.  "I told my daughter that if anyone gives her any problems, that she should tell them she wants her mother present."

Kiela's friend, who remains unidentified, states that she has been written up in the past for reading her Bible at school.

Potosi R-3 Superintendent Randy Davis says they are investigating the recent incident.  "We have absolutely no problem with students bringing their Bible.  We firmly believe in freedom of religion and students practicing their religion and their faith...We would have no concern with that at all."

If the incident occurred as alleged, it would be an oppressive violation of the students' First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.  Federal courts have made clear that students do not shed their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion at the schoolhouse door.

The incident would also be a violation of the religious freedom provisions of the Missouri Constitution.  Missouri voters approved a religious liberty amendment in August of 2012 that states that public school students have the "right to free exercise of religious expression, without interference, as long as such prayer or other expression is private and voluntary..."

This latest controversy illustrates the importance of passing legislation currently being debated by the Missouri General Assembly called the "Religious Student Liberties Act."  Sponsored by Representative Elijah Haahr, House Bill 1303 was approved by the Missouri House by a vote of 131-16.  The proposal will be heard in the Senate Education Committee tomorrow.

The bill would guarantee that students may engage in religious activities or religious expression before, during, and after the school day "in the same manner and to the same extent that students may engage in nonreligious activities or expression..."  Public school students would be expressly prohibited from "discriminating against students or parents on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression."

Incidents like that which reportedly occurred at Potosi High School are often the result of misunderstanding by public school teachers and administrators.  They falsely misconstrue the constitutional theory of the "separation of church and state" to require the exclusion of any form of religious expression from public school activities or public school facilities.

Representative Haahr's bill would be of tremendous benefit in this regard.  It would encourage school districts to establish formal policies to spell out for the benefit of staff members and students the scope of the religious liberties enjoyed by students in their local schools.

We encourage you to contact your state senator to request their vote for House Bill 1303.  There are four weeks left in the legislative session, and it is important that this bill receive expedited attention by the Missouri Senate. 

You can contact your state senator by using this link:
Your State Senator

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