A Mobile County Public Schools teacher in Alabama was sent home for wearing a t-shirt with the words “just pray” on it, WALA-TV reported.
Teacher Chris Burrell told WALA she wore the shirt to school Monday because it reminded her of 11-year-old Aubreigh Nicholas. The t-shirt is part of a fundraiser for the girl, a young dancer from Semmes who was diagnosed last year with a rare and inoperable brain tumor.
Mobile County Public Schools Superintendent Martha Peek said the school principal was just following protocol. School policy bars teachers and students from wearing anything that reflects their beliefs.
“So, at the point of looking and seeing ‘pray’ on it, the principal said, can you put on a sweater or something, knowing that there are other people who object to that…we have to be cognizant of everyone’s beliefs or everyone’s thoughts in a public school,” Peek told the TV station.
In a Facebook post, Burrell wrote, “I didn’t think twice about it. I wasn’t trying to promote religion, it was just my Monday feel good shirt.”
At the time, the principal didn’t realize the shirt was in support of Aubreigh’s Army.
“We’re totally supporting her, I think that this was just an unfortunate connection there, but still the principal would have had to exercise her judgment,” Peek said.
The post was shared more than 800 times before being removed, and many people made comments defending the Burrell.
Was the teacher disciplined?
No disciplinary action was taken against the teacher, other than the principal asking her to change, reports state.
On its website, the ACLU writes that teachers and administrators are considered employees of the state and, as a result, cannot engage in religious activities with students “when acting in their official capacities.”