Seems there was controversy brewing in New Concord, Ohio around a picture that used to hang in the lobby of John Glenn High School in memory of a beloved teacher who died years ago in front of her classroom of students. No matter where you weigh in on the place of “religious art” in public places this story touched many alumni and friends of the school.
I followed this story and knew that the end was near. The picture no longer hung in the lobby area but in the administration area where it was not visible to the majority of students. But one person started a campaign and with the threat of hundreds of thousands of dollars having to be spent to fight the uphill battle to keep the painting the school board wisely, in my humble opinion, did the right thing. They said they would take the picture down. They could not spend money that would be much better spend on education on a lawsuit that they most likely would not win.
An article in The Zanesville Times Recorder gives a little more detail to the emotions swirling around this issue. You can read this article by clicking here and a new window will open up with the article. Another article appears in The Columbus Dispatch which gives yet more background into the history behind the potential lawsuit—click here to read that article.
On behalf of the Board of Education I would like to humbly thank each of you for your support to East Muskingum Local School. Your words and actions have been very heart felt. This has been a very emotional and thoughtful process for our entire community. We value the democracy of this country to assemble ourselves and express our opinions.
Those who knew Margaret Barnett fondly remember her as a truly wonderful person and a devoted and able teacher. Throughout her 51 years of teaching Miss Barnett had very high expectations for all students’ academics and behaviors. She taught to the whole child, and developed relationships with students through mutual respect. She was the advisor of many student organizations and attended as many student events as possible because she felt it was her obligation to know the students. Margaret was involved in her community and church with the families of the children she taught. Miss Barnett was an Accomplish teacher.
May 7th, 1971, was a tragic day for the faculty and students at John Glenn High School. Miss Barnett submitted an announcement urging faculty to attend the National Honor Society Induction that evening. However, as she wrote on the chalkboard she reached back for her chair and collapsed on the floor in front of her students.
At a memorial service on May 10, 1971 the faculty donated a picture which appropriately portrayed the life of Miss Barnett in the painting of “The Good Shepherd.”
This has been difficult as community members to express our emotions. For Board Members this has been a thoughtful process based on educated facts. It is in our fiber to want to take a stand.
Throughout the past three weeks, we sought and received input and council from Bricker and Eckler, Crabble Brown and James, Liberty Counsel, American Center for Law and Justice, Liberty Institute and the Alliance Defending freedom. Based upon the legal precedent set before us, the consensus was it would be a very difficult uphill battle. The law concerning this issue is not favorable.
Our liability insurance coverage is very limited on this type of case. In the recent Jackson City Schools case the legal fees of the opposition had grown to $160,000 before they settled and paid $95,000. We could lose a Million to a quarter of a million dollars in resources and still be required to take the picture down.
The responsibility of the Board of Education is to make wise and thoughtful decisions with the tax payer’s money. We cannot mortgage our future. We cannot take away from the education of our children to fight a battle among adults not
from this community. Our hallways are not a place for this agenda.
We heard you tonight and the board agrees that:
This must challenge us all to be examples of the reasons this memorial was given.
We do not need a picture on the wall to tell us what is true and in our hearts.
We hope this is a springboard for us all to have courage in our convictions.
Again, we would like to thank you for your respectful assemblage this evening. Let us use this spark driven from the Spirit of the Good Shepherd Memorial Battle awaken us and come together for an even better future for East Muskingum Students and our Community.(School Superintendent Jill Johnson)
I applaud the board and especially applaud the words of the superintendent, Jill Johnson, that follow the news clip link . They made a difficult decision. While the picture for many was not about the religious nature but rather the intent behind the gift of a grieving staff —it did have a religious theme. It infringed on a student’s rights, according to the ACLU, and that needed to be addressed. I think there was a lot more to the story than I was aware of but regardless—–taking the picture down does not do anything to lessen MY faith at all.
You see –my faith and my belief is not based on being able to see a picture. It is faith. The belief in things unseen. That knowledge that is very difficult to explain that yes—-there is a God who loves us even when we are seemingly unloveable.
Today I embrace that faith and that belief and applaud the East Muskingum School District for the hard decision that was made. A picture does not define a belief and with or without the picture of The Good Shepherd hanging on a wall in John Glenn High School people will still believe.
(All comments are welcome but please be respectful when you leave one. I realize that there will be differing opinions and I embrace dialogue but disrespectful comments will be deleted.)