In a special meeting held July 5, the Santa Rosa County School Board met to discuss clarifications to the consent decree that was originally part of the 2009 ACLU lawsuit regarding school sanctioned religious activities.
The board convened at 4 p.m. and shortly thereafter retired to a closed, executive session. Community members waited more than four hours to hear what the board had to say.
Horatio G. Mihnet, of the Liberty Counsel, who represented the 24 individuals who sued the district to challenge the consent decree in May 2010, waited with his clients.
Mihnet and his clients were hopeful that the board would amend the consent decree and clarify what the term "official capacity" meant for teachers and school board employees. Mihnet said that the district claimed the adjustments were "minor clarifications" but his clients saw things differently.
"Calling these minor clarifications is like calling an atomic bomb a minor heat wave," Mihnet said.
The original consent decree was worded broadly, causing confusion. The term "official capacity" was used in such a way that teachers and school district employees were left open to potential legal action if they conducted themselves improperly at an event, said Mihnet.
Bob Metty, of Pace, is one of Liberty Counsel’s clients. He was unable to join his wife in a baccalaureate ceremony where their daughter was set to give the benediction, due to the ambiguous wording in the original consent decree. Metty said he skipped the ceremony rather than risk a possible legal action if he were to attend the event, which was held after school hours and off school property.
For more on this story, see the July 14 issue of Navarre Press or subscribe online.