The school prayer controversy came to the forefront in Delaware, America's first state, when 2005 lawsuits brought by two Jewish families, each with two children in the local schools, turned a small community in Sussex County into a culture-war flashpoint.
By the time all the litigation came to an end in 2012, both families had reached settlements with the Indian River School District, one had moved away, and the local school board was banned from opening its meetings with sectarian prayers, according to the advocacy group Jews on First.
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The plaintiffs were the Dobrich family and a second family that sued using a pseudonym, the Does, in order to protect their identities. Both said their Jewish children were being educated in an environment that promoted Christianity in violation of the First Amendment's church-state separation mandate.
"Prayers have begun (and often ended) football practice sessions, athletic and academic banquest, school potlucks, school baccalaureate services, graduation exercises and Indian River School Board meetings. The prayers frequently have been sectarian, Christian prayers," the Dobrich's complaint read, as quoted on the website
The Does, for their part, told Jews on First their 11-year-old son was pressured by classmates to attend a lunch hour Bible study led by a science teacher, and their objections led to a raucous 2004 school board meeting in which Jewish families were belittled by speakers and not defended by elected officials.
After going to court, the Dobriches moved to another part of the state. The Does stayed put despite, they said, being shunned by many in the community. School board members, feeling their own faith was under siege, unanimously rejected one court-approved settlement offer in 2006.
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A deal was finally reached in 2008. The school board, through its insurer, payed an undisclosed sum to the families while admitting no wrongdoing. The board also agreed to revise its policies in order to avoid promoting religion and to require school personnel to read and sign off on the new rules, the Jews on First group said.
The Does pursued a separate case against the school board for opening meetings with a prayer, and won, with the U.S. Supreme Court declining in 2012 to hear the school board's appeal, Education Week reported
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