CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) - The debate over the Conway Public School District's current visitor policy started up last fall. Is it constitutional? The district enlisted the help of a law firm to find out.
A letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation last fall sparked this entire conversation. The group claimed the school was violating the Constitution by allowing a youth pastor to visit students during the lunch hour. After receiving the letter, the district stopped allowing religious leaders into the schools pending a policy review. Tuesday, board members heard the result of that review.
"The school district's current policy is constitutional," said Jeff Mateer, chief counsel of the Liberty Institute.
That is the outcome of a month long review into the Conway Public School District's visitor policy. Mateer with the non-profit law firm Liberty Institute found no constitutional issues with the current policy.
"It's a neutral policy. What that means is all folks are treated the same. There is no preference over religion over non religion or non religion over religion. As such, it's constitutional," said Mateer.
But Diane Robinson said though the policy may seem neutral, it's not. She claims a church representative approached her middle school daughter on several occasions at lunch. It is something she said is not appropriate.
"My concern is a safety concern. I am not comfortable with strangers approaching my child at lunch during the school day. I witnessed that happening. I witnessed representatives walking around the cafeteria talking to kids at will and I'm not comfortable with that," said Robinson.
Though they found no problems with the current policy, Tuesday the Liberty Institute proposed a few changes like setting certain times and places for visitors plus requiring background checks and parental permission. They are changes the board unanimously approved and changes that make Robinson happy.
"I think the policy that has been proposed is an appropriate policy as long as it's enforced," said Robinson.
Superintendent Dr. Greg Murray said it will take a few weeks to implement the changes. They plan to purchase automatic background check technology for each of the district's 15 schools. Religious leaders will not be allowed to visit the school until the changes are in place.
To review the changes to the Conway Public School District Visitor Policy, click here.