By: Todd Rourke
Re: "Football head"
Suit Opposes School Prayer AP-NY-12-20-94 1834EST
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - A 7-year-old was humiliated in class
when he objected to hearing prayers in his public school,
his mother said Tuesday as she filed suit to stop the
A second-grade teacher asked Jason Herdahl to wear
headphones in order to drown out the prayers, and he was
made fun of and called names like ``football head,'' Lisa
Herdahl said at a news conference.
Herdahl said the lawsuit was a last resort in her yearlong
effort to eliminate prayer and Bible study from classes
attended by her five children, who are in kindergarten
through ninth grade at North Pontotoc Attendance Center in
She said her children were ``stigmatized by school
officials, and teased and harassed by other students''
because they elected not to participate in Bible classes or
prayer. She said they have been taunted so much that they no
longer want to attend class.
The school serves about 1,300 students from kindergarten
through high school and is the only public school in the
area. Prayers are fed into classrooms by intercom.
Public schools in Mississippi have traditionally allowed
prayer over intercoms at the start of the school day, saying
they do not violate the Supreme Court ban on public school
prayers because students initiate them.
``We plan to vigorously defend our practices - we feel it's
constitutional and doing good for the students,'' Pontotoc
school superintendent Jerry Horton said Monday. ``We don't
consider it a state-sponsored prayer or force people to do
it or listen to it.''
The school's practices are ``not even close to the line
between constitutional and unconstitutional,'' said Judith
Schaeffer of People for the American Way. The civil rights
group and the American Civil Liberties Union sued on
Herdahl said that, when her children entered the school in
October 1993, she was told Bible teachers from various
churches went to the school regularly and taught Christian
principles to children in the lower grades.
Herdahl said her children were baptized as Lutherans.
``I simply do not want the school telling my children how
and when to pray,'' Herdahl said. ``Prayer is something that
my children learn at home and in our church. It is ironic
that in the name of religion my children are forced to face
daily ridicule and cruelty.''
Over the past year, Herdahl repeatedly asked the school to
stop sanctioning the teaching of religion. ``They never
responded,'' she said, ``except to say they would deal with
it at a further meeting. They never did.''
Jason only wore the headphones a few times, Herdahl said,
``because his teacher was disturbed by it and called me.''
Herdahl said the teacher told her that someone else had
instructed her to put the headphones on the child.