By Cristina Janney
The Hays School Board voted Friday morning to ban clothing that promotes Satanism from its dress codes for all schools in the district.
The language has been included in student handbooks, which were approved at a Friday morning meeting ahead of the annual board retreat.
Mother Mary Turner, who said she is a longtime member of the Satanic Temple, spoke out against the ban at a school meeting in July.
She alleged that the wording of the policy violated her children’s right to freedom of religion.
The original language of the elementary and middle school textbook dress code was as follows.
Articles of clothing considered embarrassing, dangerous, offensive, revealing or suggestive (direct or indirect reference to alcohol, drugs, sex, profanity, gang affiliation, Satanism, tobacco, etc. ) should not be worn.
After the July discussion, the USD 489 administration returned elementary and middle school textbooks to the school board removing the word Satanism.
The hand of the high school textbook never specifically addressed Satanism.
Board member Curt Vajnar read the dictionary definitions of Satanism and evil, then said he couldn’t support the textbooks with the words Satanism removed from the prohibited items in the dress code.
“I know we’re every kid every day, but I think we’re twisting that,” he said. “Every child means this district is going to provide the best opportunity for a good education that day.
“That doesn’t give them all the rights they want. If that were true, I want my kid to be the starting pitcher in the WAC tournament, and I want my other kid to be the starting quarterback in Game 1. home football.”
Vajnar, who is a longtime former teacher in the district, said the board is putting more emphasis on teachers and administrators.
Board member Tammy Wellbrock said she does not support Satanism. However, she said she thinks banning the expression of Satanism as a religion in schools could expose the district to a lawsuit.
“The way it seems to me,” she said, “there hasn’t been a district that won a lawsuit.”
Board attorney Bill Jeter said he believes the district would face liability if it banned Satanism in the dress code.
Board vice-chairman Ken Brooks said: ‘What you’re saying is if somebody comes in and complains, we have to live in fear and change everything every time somebody comes in. to complain.”
Wellbrock said, “Let’s get back to I want my kid to be a starting pitcher, that’s not a policy. It’s not a protected right in our legal system.”
She added: “I need everyone to understand. I don’t worship the devil, and supporting that is not me trying to say we need to convert our children. That’s not what I say.”
Superintendent Ron Wilson said removing Satanism from the policy would not change the implementation of the policy.
“It’s about what disrupts our educational operations,” Wilson said. “If anyone is wearing a Satanism shirt that somehow disrupts our school day, they will be asked to remove that shirt. It won’t change anything we do. We were just trying not to put highlight a specific religion.”
Brooks said, “If it hadn’t been for that complaint that night, we would all have approved of it as is and there would have been no controversy at all.”
Vajnar said, “Some fights are worth fighting.”
Council chairman Craig Pallister, who is a former principal at Hays Middle School, said he could have added 300 items to the list of prohibited dress codes.
“We currently live in a society where everyone is trying to assert their values,” he said. “Everyone who walks in the door or emails me has their own set of values that they’re trying to establish for the school district. Few of them are able to say it’s because it’s is good for children.”
Five of the seven council members voted for the ban, with council members Wellbrock and Meagan Zampieri-Lillpopp voting against.
Zampieri-Lillpopp supported removing the Satanism ban from textbooks at the July meeting. She was late to the meeting on Friday and only arrived in time to vote on the measure.
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