Conflict Over Prayer in Public School in Prosper

A Wisconsin-based religion opposition group is threatening legal action over claims of adult-led prayer at Prosper High School.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wis., wrote to Prosper Independent School District Superintendent Drew Watkins this week, with complaints about Prosper High School Principal Greg Wright.

"School staff cannot participate in, let alone lead, student religious events," the letter said.

Parent Janie Oyakawa said she complained about the principal after seeing a photo of him leading prayer at a "See You At the Pole" event on Wednesday, Sept. 3. The online photo included a message that Wright is beginning a student prayer group in the Prosper High School Auditorium called "First Priority."

"That struck me as a little insulting, 'First Priority,' wording as if the non-Christian students there are not a first priority or have their priorities misaligned," Oyakawa said. "It just seemed slightly aggressive to the non-believing students. Then I looked up the club, and the club's mission is to seek out the non-believers and bring them to Christ."

Online complaints posted by the non-believing parent sparked a prayer rally at the high school on Friday, Sept. 25. The parent claims her son was bullied at the school that day.

"And a friend walked up to him and said, 'You better lay low today.' And that's when he called and said he wanted to come home," Oyakawa said.

The parent said student-led prayer in school is OK, but prayer led by the principal is not.

"If he wants to be the principal of a Christian school, he has all the freedom to do that. But I just want our high school to represent the people that are part of the community and contribute financially to it and not all of those people are Christians," she said.

Prosper ISD Assistant Superintendent Michael Goddard provided a statement by e-mail Wednesday:

"Prosper ISD received the letter just two days ago and we are evaluating if there is any merit or validity in the claims from the group in Wisconsin. Any other comment at this point would be premature until we visit with administration, students and teachers."

Other Prosper residents had mixed reaction Wednesday.

"I know when I was there, it was real Christian. Everybody was real into it. Everybody was into God, so it was never a problem at Prosper High," said graduate Anthony Barron.

Resident Jennifer Hillman said she has a hard time complaining about the principal.

"I appreciate he's a man of God because I'm a woman of God, but I understand both sides and I understand that other children in that school might come from a home where they might not believe in God," she said.

An online post by Prosper Town Councilman Jason Dixon said another prayer rally is planned at the high school Friday morning at 7:45 a.m. Dixon did not return a message left for him at the town hall Wednesday.

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