- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

A 5-year-old kindergartner in upstate New York who was prohibited from saying grace aloud before snack time at school can pray again under a proposed settlement reached this week.
Under the settlement, officials with the Saratoga Springs School District acknowledge Kayla Broadus' right to pray out loud before snack time without disturbing others or inviting others to pray with her. Kayla attends Dorothy Nolan Elementary School.
"While we're thankful that the anti-religious discrimination Kayla suffered has finally been corrected, it should not have taken a federal lawsuit to vindicate her basic civil rights," said John W. Whitehead, president of the Virginia-based Rutherford Institute, whose attorneys represented Kayla.
"Any censorship of personal religious speech in a public school even though it is couched in terms of separation of church and state teaches children that religious persons are second-class citizens, and this is fundamentally wrong," Mr. Whitehead said.
The district's board of education was expected to approve the settlement late last night.
As part of the settlement, school officials have asked Kayla's attorneys to drop her family's request for $50,000 in punitive damages and any payment of attorney fees, according to school attorney Gregg T. Johnson.
Also, school officials will not admit any wrongdoing in the case and ask to be released from any future litigation in this case, Mr. Johnson said.
"This is a positive resolution to a case that has run its course," Mr. Johnson said in a telephone interview yesterday. "This will not change school policy because we never had a district policy that restricted student prayer. Kayla has and will have the same rights she had in the beginning of last year. Nothing has changed."
The controversy began Jan. 15 when teacher Lori Maragno hushed Kayla for saying, "God is good. God is great. Thank you, God, for my food." Kayla had invited three of her 19 classmates who shared a table with her to join hands as she said grace before they ate their snacks of cupcakes and milk.
Citing separation of church and state, Miss Maragno stopped the girls from praying and told Kayla that she was not allowed to pray in class. The school principal agreed with the teacher's actions.
After being contacted by Kayla's mother, the institute attorneys wrote a letter to the school principal, asking that school officials apologize to Kayla and allow her to pray. The letter, Mr. Whitehead said, also corrected Miss Maragno's and the principal's assumptions that this case was a matter of separation of church and state. But school officials didn't change their minds.
As a result, Kayla's mother, Cheryl Broadus, filed a lawsuit in federal court. A judge in April temporarily ordered school officials to allow Kayla to continue to pray out loud until a formal hearing was heard in the case.


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