When things are hard, nighttime makes them harder.  If you’ve ever been a parent, you know that your kid’s fever is higher at night than in the daytime.  People who are grieving often grieve deeply during the night when nobody hears them.  Nights are hard.

Monday night was hard.  When I got home from the 5-hour marathon meeting I told my wife that I felt like someone had died.  I honestly thought the feeling might diminish as the days wore on.  It has not.  Real grief doesn’t–it works into your heart like a baker kneading dough.  It hurts.

All the news isn’t bad news.  The board completely removed Section 9 from the policy regarding distribution of materials.  How could they not?  None of the organizations affected (YMCA, Relay for Life, Lunch Bunch and Project Christmas) engage in proselytizing in their communications.  That was easy.

Baccalaureate is still on the table.  We wait to hear about it.  Though it is a private service, held at a neutral location, funded completely by local churches, the question remains as to whether the high school principal can speak and be referred to as “the high school principal.”

Other things are borderline ridiculous.

A coach (or anyone else) who bows his/her head while someone else is praying is considered in violation of the new policy.  The possibility of a “respectful posture” is not even allowed.

Junior high and high school teachers should not be referred to as “sponsors” of clubs like FCA…only monitors.  The logic behind this falls significantly short of common sense.

“Outsiders” cannot regularly attend meetings on high school campuses.  This targets youth ministers who typically show up at FCA or other like-minded organizations.  No definition of “regularly attend” was given.

All of this has come about when there are no reports of any high school or junior high school teacher or student who has coerced any student toward his or her religious views.  Someone aptly stated, “We’re trying to kill a gnat with a missile.”

The missile doesn’t have to be. This policy has not yet been approved by the school board and will require multiple readings before it is finally voted on.  We don’t need it.  We already have a policy.  We need teachers and principals to exercise discretion and leadership, to love all their students equally, and be accountable to other people, not policies.  We need to assume that people who have prepared for years to be teachers and principals, who have varied religious perspectives, and who are trained in what they can and cannot do, will sometimes make mistakes.  We’ll correct the mistakes and move on.  That’s reality.

Weeping may endure for the night…but joy comes with the morning.  (Psalm 30:5)

I’m still holding out for joy.





  1. What is our best course of action from here? Contact school board members, attend a school board meeting?


    1. Yes. Check the comments on the previous blog. You will find all their email addresses. The next meeting is Monday…I’m not sure what time. I’m pretty sure it is at the normal location–in downtown. I also think if you want to speak you have to let them now ahead of time.


  2. Jerry, thank you for your insights. You have made clear to us what is going on in the McDowell school system. Paul reminds us in 2nd Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of timidity (fear), but He has given us a spirit of power, love and discipline (sound mind.) May the School Board and all involved in the final outcome of this issue remember Whose they are – why they are – and how their Creator will view their decision. -Barbara


  3. Well written Jerry. As a teacher, I admit we are not perfect. But, we should all strive to be professional in what we do. Sometimes that might mean being reverent when a student wants to pray. Sometimes that means removing ourselves from a situation that could be against a board policy. Sometimes that means referring a student to an outside source such as a church for help. Sometimes it may mean that a hurting third grader who just lost his mother in an accident needs a hug and a whisper of “I’m praying for you and your family, and I love you.” Praying for joy for McDowell County Schools . . .


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