"It can hardly be argued that either student or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." Justice Abe Fortas, Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 1969.
My niece, Madison*, led the invocation at her high school graduation. She was chosen by her peers through a ballot vote. Her family is extremely proud of her heart for the Lord and people, and for exercising her constitutional rights. This is her prayer:
"Please bow your heads with me:
Dear Lord and Father,
I thank you so much for this amazing group of seniors and for all the memories we have made over the past four years of our high school careers. Thank you for blessing this class with so much talent, intelligence, health, ability, and love for each other.
I thank you for the mentors and teachers who have impacted our lives and have inspired us to become strong leaders in this world as we go on to a new stage in our lives. We come to you on this evening lifting up this group of seniors before you. I pray that as we all go our separate ways that we stay strong in our morals and values that we have gained from the influences of the people that YOU have surrounded us with.
Your plan is perfect, Lord, and I pray that we take what you have provided for us here, and use it to do your will. I thank you so much for your many blessings and the ultimate sacrifice, your son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins. In His perfect and gracious name I pray, Amen."
In the U. S., private religious speech, as well as secular private expression, is fully protected under the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause. According to the U. S. Dept. of Education's guidance regarding prayer at graduation, school officials may not require or organize prayer at graduation or other school-sponsored events, or select speakers for such events in a manner that favors religious speech. School personnel may not lead their classes in prayer, Bible readings, or other religious activities. School students are not prohibited from voluntarily praying before, during, or after the school day.
Do your children and grandchildren know their First Amendment rights? Talk to them about the freedoms we enjoy in our nation. Encourage them to exercise their constitutional right to pray at school.
*Names changed to protect privacy
Photo of my nieces Stephanie* & Madison*