Aug 07, 2022

Hays school board votes to prohibit satanism in dress code

Posted Aug 07, 2022 3:12 PM

Hays Post

The Hays school board voted Friday morning to prohibit clothing promoting satanism in its dress codes for all schools in the district.

The language was included in student handbooks, which were approved in a meeting Friday morning before the board's annual retreat.

Parent Mary Turner, who said she is a longtime member of the Satanic Temple, spoke against the prohibition at a school meeting in July.

She alleged the language in the policy infringed on her children's right of freedom of religion.

The original elementary and middle school handbook dress code language was as follows.

Items of apparel that are considered distracting, unsafe, offensive, revealing, or suggestive (direct or indirect reference to alcohol, drugs, sex, profanity, gang affiliation, Satanism, tobacco, etc.) should not be worn.

After the discussion in July, the USD 489 administration brought the elementary and middle school handbooks back to the school board with the word satanism removed.

The high school handbook hand never specifically addressed satanism.

Board member Curt Vajnar read the definitions of satanism and evil from the dictionary and then said he could not support the handbooks with the words satanism removed from the prohibited items in the dress code.

"I know we are every child every day, but I think we are twisting that," he said. "Every child means this district is going to provide the best opportunity for a good education that day.

"It doesn't give them every right they want. If that was true, I want my kid to be the starting pitcher at the WAC tournament, and I want my other kid to be the starting quarterback at the first home football game."

Vajnar, who is former longtime teacher in the district, said the board is putting more stress on teachers and administrators.

Board member Tammy Wellbrock said she does not support satanism. However, she said she thought barring expression of satanism as a religion in schools could expose the district to a lawsuit.

 "The way it looks to me," she said, "there has not been a district that has won a lawsuit."

Board attorney Bill Jeter said he thought the district would subject itself to liability if it prohibited satanism in the dress code.

Board vice president Ken Brooks said, "What you're saying is that if someone comes and complains, we've got to live in fear and change everything every time someone comes and complains."

Wellbrock said, "Back to I want my kid to be a starting pitcher, that's not a policy. That is not a protected right in our court system."

She added, "I need everyone to understand. I do not worship the devil, and supporting this is not me trying to say we need to convert our kids. That's not what I'm saying."

Superintendent Ron Wilson said removing satanism from the policy would not change the implementation of the policy.

"It's all about what disrupts our educational operations," Wilson said. "If someone wears a satanism shirt that somehow is causing a disruption in our school day, they will be asked to remove that shirt. It is not going to change anything we do. We were just trying not to highlight a specific religion."

Brooks said, "If there hadn't been that complaint that night, we would have all approved it as is and there wouldn't have been any controversy at all."

Vajnar said, "Some fights are worth fighting."

Board president Craig Pallister, who is a former principal at Hays Middle School, said he could have added 300 items to the prohibited dress code list.

"We live in a society right now where everyone is trying to push their values," he said. "Everyone who walks in the door or emails me has their own set of values that they are trying to set for the school district. Not very many of them are able to say it's because it's good for kids."

Five of the seven board members voted for the prohibition with board members Wellbrock and Meagan Zampieri-Lillpopp voting against.

Zampieri-Lillpopp supported removing the satanism prohibition from the handbooks at the meeting in July. She was late to the meeting Friday and only arrived in time to vote on the measure.