In 2003, the American Civil Liberties Union dropped a federal lawsuit against the Clark County, Nevada, school district that arose amid concerns over graduation prayers.
In that suit, which was voluntarily dismissed, the ACLU had sought "a declaration that a district policy allowing student-led prayer was unconstitutional," the First Amendment Center noted
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The request arose from concerns over the school board's vote to uphold the district's invocation and benediction policy for graduations. Board members OK'd such religious moments at school events against the advice of school attorneys and the state attorney general, the First Amendment Center said.
The district's superintendent raised concerns that it would lose $70 million in federal funding if the board did not uphold a ban on those prayers. The district agreed upon a modified policy that would allow administrators to review student-led speeches in advance of a ceremony. That led to the ACLU backing off of its case.
“When an administrator reviews student speech, she will substantially control the speech by ensuring that it does not contain speech which interferes with the educational process, is lewd, profane, threatening, proselytizing or constitutes prayer,” the school district's attorney, Bill Hoffman wrote in a directive to the school system, according to the First Amendement Center.
In February 2015, the Nevada legislature created much uproar over a bill that would "protect public school students — in local districts and colleges — who pray in school or express their religious viewpoints in any school work, as long as it's 'under the same circumstances as each pupil is allowed to speak or otherwise express a viewpoint on a nonreligious matter,'" the Reno Gazette-Journal reported
Critics of Assembly Bill 120 said it advanced a Christian ideal in schools. It also presented a legal quagmire for the district, creating what was described as a complaint process for students who felt their ability to express their faith was hampered. It allowed a $10,000 award in lawsuits arising over the issue, the Gazette-Journal said.
The bill was opposed by the ACLU, the Nevada State Education Association, the Nevada Association of School Superintendents as well as a host of students. A small group of parents supported it, the paper said.
Opponents argued that it protected "Christian-style, silent prayer while silencing other prayers such as that of Muslims," the paper wrote.
Supporters said it would allow those religious students to practice their faith without disturbing others, something they added that the Constitution already guaranteed.
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