E.C.I.S.D. Students Speaking at Graduation Will Determine if Prayer is Included

E.C.I.S.D. Students Speaking at Graduation Will Determine if Prayer is Included

by: Justin Kree

NewsWest 9

ODESSA-  The Ector County Independent School District is making changes to their graduation ceremony that will most likely make parents and seniors upset.

Invocation and Benediction have been a part of the graduation ceremony for years. This year, E.C.I.S.D. must replace those words with opening and closing because they are considered "too religious" by state and federal law.

"What we're trying to do is comply with what our state law and board policy calls for. Some people think we have eliminated the invocation and benediction and told the kids they can't pray.That is not fact at all. If the students choose to pray who are selected to do the opening and closing, choose to pray, we can neither encourage it or discourage it," Crowe said.

Superintendent Crowe told NewsWest 9 that the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State contacted him and demanded a change or they would threaten to file a lawsuit.

"It's not the threat of the lawsuit that made us change. I had to look at the board policy and the law and make sure we were following those. Once we determined we weren't, I felt like we had to make the change," Crowe said.

Crowe understands people here are very religious and a backlash will most likely come this week leading up to graduation.

"There are people who will be upset by this. I hope they think it through to the final conclusion that we are not saying you can't pray at graduation," Crowe said.

Nick Flores is a Senior at Odessa High, he strongly hopes those chosen to speak will keep the prayer.

"Let them do the prayer cause I think we need it.The Seniors need it, we've worked so hard. We've dealt with a lot of things, some losses and I think that will make our year outstanding. Keep the tradition alive," Flores said.

Nick and his Mother, Bonnie, will hold a gathering in front of the administration building at 4:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon, all are welcome. The gathering will convince those students chosen to speak to keep prayer in the ceremony.