Source: The Corydon Democrat

Lanesville school trustees consider religious program

by Alan Stewart

July 22, 2014

As many know, more than 50 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared school-sponsored prayers unconstitutional in the landmark case Engel vs. White.

But what many do not know is that in 1952 the same Supreme Court approved Released Time Religious Education, which is a way for public school students to receive religious education during the school day — off campus and only with parental permission from participating students — with a maximum of 120 minutes of teaching per week. Those operating the program are not allowed to use any type of school property for the program, from classroom space to a simple paper clip.

On Monday, the Lanesville Community School Corp. Board of Trustees, two people representing the YMCA of Harrison County — Pastor Tim Johnson of Pfrimmer’s Chapel United Methodist Church and Jeannie Bedel — made a presentation in which they hoped Lanesville would partner with the Y in starting a Released Time program.

Currently, there are no YMCA-based Released Time programs in Harrison County and only nine or 10 schools in Indiana have it, with the closest being in Ferdinand.

Johnson said the non-denominational program is very similar to Vacation Bible School in which only Bible stories are taught and teachings from the Old and New testaments of the Bible. Though the program is geared toward fourth and fifth graders, it would be open to students in kindergarten through grade 12 and would utilize volunteers to teach at an off-site location, perhaps at Lanesville or at the Lanesville Jaycees building, at no charge. All costs of the program, including transportation, would be absorbed through donations, churches and the YMCA.

“The hardest part would be fitting it into the schedule,” Johnson said.

Bedel read to the board a 2006 letter from Linda K. Epeards, principal at Patricksburg Elementary School, singing the praises of the Released Time program.

“As I look over the past two years, I can think of several children whose self-esteem has been boosted through the (program) to the extent that there is a positive change in their behavior or academic progress,” Epeards said.

A study conducted more than a decade ago showed that Release Time students improved after one year in three categories of literacy skills, including comprehension, spelling and vocabulary, and that those students taking part performed better academically than their classmates as a whole in almost every category.

School trustee Denzil McKim asked Johnson if the program would allow students with disabilities. Johnson said that it would, because by opening the program to just one student meant that it was opening the program to all students.

The board took the presentation under advisement.

The board also heard a presentation from LJSHS junior Conner Smith regarding an Eagle Scout project he’d like to undertake. Smith is hoping to erect a concession stand between the high school tennis courts and soccer field.