Skip to comments.''In God We Trust'' Greets Students at [Virginia] Schools
Posted on 09/03/2002 7:13:39 PM PDT by Ligeia
Maintenance workers pass by one of the new posters in
the main hallway of Larkspur Middle School in Virginia
Beach. Photo by Mike Heffner / The Virginian-Pilot.
The sign of the times hangs about head high over the counter in the main office of Oscar F. Smith High School in Chesapeake.
The wood-framed poster measures 11 inches by 14 inches -- a little larger than a newspaper folded in half. Superimposed in gold letters over a full-color picture of a waving flag is ``In God We Trust''; beneath it, smaller black letters read, ``The National Motto Enacted By Congress in 1956.''
Students, staff and visitors to Virginia public schools reopening their doors today should spy these or similar signs in entryways, offices or main hallways. It's the law -- and one that South Hampton Roads schools are working to obey.
The law -- passed by the General Assembly earlier this year, signed in May by Gov. Mark R. Warner and in effect since July 1 -- commands public school divisions to ``prominently post'' the motto ``in a conspicuous place in each of their schools for all students to read.''
Virginia joins a handful of states with such requirements. In recent years, the state also has begun requiring students each school day to observe a moment of silence and to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Displaying the motto is ``an awareness and an educational issue, for all of us: parents, visitors to the schools, students and teachers,'' said Jeanne S. Evans, executive assistant to the superintendent in Virginia Beach, where they started hanging the posters two weeks ago. ``Sort of a good reminder.''
Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Suffolk accepted posters donated by the Family Policy Network, a socially conservative Christian association based in Bedford County. The group pushed for the law for two years, and this summer sent 3,200 posters, paid for by an anonymous Richmond donor, to most school systems in the state.
The rest was up to the school divisions. Chesapeake crafted its own wood frames for about $235. Suffolk bought them at Wal-Mart for $128.53. Virginia Beach spent roughly $1,400 on simple, gold-colored frames. The Portsmouth Schools Foundation donated about $150 worth of frames in that city.
Norfolk public schools didn't accept the offer of free posters and last week was paying a printer $634 for 500 copies of its own, similar design.
``In case they get torn or something, we want to have a ready supply,'' said George D. Raiss, public information officer.
Asked why the division didn't accept the ones from the Family Policy Network, Raiss answered, ``We just preferred to produce them ourselves.''
The Loudoun County-based ``Freedom Friday,'' an organization that promotes separation of church and state, threatened last month to sue public school divisions that used the Family Policy Network posters. Schools should use ``religiously neutral'' posters instead, the group said.
FPN President Joe Glover said such a suit wouldn't make sense because the Family Policy Network name doesn't appear on the posters.
His group's Web site describes FPN as a ``pro-family'' organization providing information on moral issues. The site emphasizes the group's stance against homosexual behavior as sinful.
Glover said it took his staff 2 1/2 days and $1,000 to mail the posters across the state.
``We just made sure they had plenty to satisfy the requirements of the law,'' he said.
``I think that one of the prerequisites to having an orderly society is the understanding that the individuals within it are accountable to God for their behavior toward other human beings,'' he said.
``And especially in light of 9/11, the citizens of Virginia and throughout the nation are . . . aware of our accountability to God and his provision in our lives, and they want schoolchildren to be mindful of that as well.''
The schoolchildren, like their elders, are split in their views on the law.
``I think that, because our country was based on those ideas, it's OK to have them in the schools,'' said Jacqueline Pavis, a junior at Virginia Beach's Kempsville High School. ``You don't have to sit and stare at the signs for a half an hour or anything like that.''
But, the principle of separation of church and state ``separates us from the weirdo cultures,'' said Frances Cabrera, a junior across town at Frank W. Cox High School.
Norfolk Academy sophomore Allison Bernstein worried about tolerance: ``Some people call `God' by different names. This imposes a Judeo-Christian religion on everyone.''
Still, neither Ben Boone, a junior at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, nor Rachel Vorona, a senior at Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, understood why the motto would offend anyone.
``I think it will be a source of comfort in the halls,'' Vorona said.
The Washington Times
'Good old golden rule days' make returnJon Ward
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
For the third straight year, Virginia's first day of school has been marred [sheesh, sounds like the WP] by controversy, and this year it involves the law requiring all public schools to display posters reminding them of the national motto: "In God We trust."
Two years ago there was a mandatory minute of silence at the beginning of each day, and a year ago there was a required daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, including the phrase "one nation under God. "
The 2002 General Assembly passed legislation requiring public school districts to post the national motto "in a conspicuous place in each of their schools for all students to read." The law says that under "In God We Trust," the signs must say, "The National Motto enacted by Congress in 1956."
Critics of the new law say it crosses the line between the separation of church and state.
At Liberty Middle School in Clifton, the cafeteria tables didn't come on time, but other than that the first day went smoothly.
Liberty is the only new school this year in the Fairfax County public school system, which desperately needs new schools. Fairfax County is the largest school system in Virginia, the 12th-largest in the country, and continues to grow.
"We've been growing at the rate of 3,000 to 4,000 new students per year for about six or seven years," said schools spokesman Paul Regnier. "We've got 14,000 kids in trailers."
Liberty, he said, "is going to help a lot. But it's not going to solve the problem."
Four new schools are slated to open next year in the county, which should alleviate overcrowding for some of the system's 166,000 students and 13,000 teachers, Mr. Regnier said.
Liberty opened its doors yesterday to about 1,085 students under the supervision and direction of Principal Audra Sydnor, formerly principal at Lanier Middle School in Fairfax from 1997 to 2001.
Mrs. Sydnor said when she woke up, she "felt happy."
"This is the moment I've been waiting for, I'm working so hard for," she said over a hurried homemade lunch between afternoon meetings.
"We just want to get them in and get them fed, get them textbooks and get them acclimated," said Mrs. Sydnor.
All of that went fine, except for the cafeteria tables. Those had not arrived yet, but Fairfax County brought in temporary tables to fix the problem.
Students were excited as well.
"It's like, cool," said Mustafa Bouzihay, a 13-year-old eighth-grader. "You meet new people, make new friends."
Still, Mustafa was not looking forward to going back to school quite as much as Mrs. Sydnor.
"When I was in the summer, I wanted to go back to school," he said. "But when it came to school, and I started to read, I'm thinking, 'How long until summer?'"
"It's really big," Grace Ye, 14, said of her new school, where she is in eighth grade.
"It's a lot different from my old school," said Grace, who previously attended Rippon Middle School in Woodbridge.
Liberty is a 180,000-square-foot building with state-of-the-art technology, including full, high-speed Internet wiring. It cost $22.8 million to build the school, which was financed by the 1999 bond referendum.
"I think the biggest thing is that we have state-of-the-art technology. That's a big plus for the students," said Mrs. Sydnor.
Grace's father, Kyong Ye, 44, said through his daughter, who translated his Korean into English, that he was pleased with her new school.
Fairfax County schools began classes a full week later than Prince George's and Montgomery County public schools in Maryland because Virginia state law mandates that schools cannot begin until after Labor Day unless they get a waiver, said Mr. Regnier.
The Fairfax County schools system has 132 elementary schools (grades K-6), 19 middle schools (grades 7 and 8), three middle schools (grades 6-8), three secondary schools (grades 7-12), and 21 high schools (grades 9-12). The operating budget for the 2002-03 school year is $1.554 billion, with an average cost per student of $9,388.
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