Oregon Public School Cancels Noon-time Clergy Visits

An Oregon school district has suspended a practice of allowing clergy to visit students at lunch, following concerns raised by parents.

In early June, officials of Bend-La Pine School District, one of the state’s largest school districts, asked youth ministers from Westside Church to stop visiting students, The Oregonian reported. According to the Portland daily, representatives had been going to lunches about once a month at four of the district’s middle schools and three of its high schools.

Judy Drake, a Bend-La Pine school parent, told the newspaper that she was concerned about middle schoolers who are “so impressionable.” She said that if the district was allowing one religion to be represented, it should “allow other religions to be represented too.”

Bend-La Pine Superintendent Doug Nelson told The Oregonian that he had received reports of Westside clergy organizing youth group members during the visits and possibly attempting to recruit other students for the group.

“The result of that is that students who were not members of their church could be influenced, and that clearly creates an entanglement about which we have to be concerned,” Nelson said.

The superintendent told the newspaper that the district hopes to have a new policy on school visitors before the start of the next school year.