Teacher is fired for leading class in prayer

By Ashley Conroy - email

FRANKLIN COUNTY, MS (WLBT) - A Franklin County High School teacher was fired on Tuesday for leading her students in prayer in the classroom.

Teacher Alice Hawley received a letter from the district signed by Superintendent, Grady Flemming saying her contract for the 2010-2011 school year was not being renewed.

Hawley says it's been a whirl-wind over the past two days since the district decided to reinstate her contract for the 2010-2011 school year on Wednesday.

She is thrilled they asked her to come back, but says the real challenge isn't over.

"The real victory will come when we can go in and freely pray. As we want to as the children want to, that's when real victory comes," said Hawley.

This same scenario happened once before to Hawley over 15 years ago. After several years, the district once again asked her to come back.

Even still, Hawley says she believes in the power of prayer and will continue to pray as long as her students are comfortable.

"And I'll never deny a child prayer if they ask for prayer," said Hawley.

One of Hawley's students Billy Wright says these prayers were always voluntary, and that she told every student at the beginning of the year to tell her if they didn't want to participate in prayer.

"She said you can leave a letter an anonymous email, or just tell her raise your hand in class," Wright said.

Students from Franklin High lead an outpour of comments wearing T-shirts and writing insignia saying "I broke a rule, I prayed in school."

"We should be able to do that instead of firing people for praying," student Kristie Wallace said.

Former student Amerika Shaw says she doesn't see why the district made a big deal over Hawley's classroom prayers.

"She prayed for us, our education, and if we had any problems, and just asked God to watch over us, that's about it," said Shaw.

According to state law: "It shall be lawful for any teacher or school administrator to permit the voluntary participation by students or others in prayer."

Many Franklin High students say school leaders often initiate prayer on a daily basis.

"And sometimes our principle comes and he'll bow his head and he'll pray with us," said 9th grader Triston Wilkinson.

Superintendent Flemming was not available for comment to WLBT.

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