Mother wants ACLU to look at IHS incident

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 13, 2004

Poets and romantics have philosophized throughout the centuries about the meaning and importance of a kiss. One Ironton mom said too much emphasis was placed on a recent smooch involving her daughter and now she wants the ACLU to get involved.

The woman, who asked that neither she nor her daughter be identified, said that two weeks ago her sophomore daughter and the girl's junior boyfriend, both Ironton High School students, were brought into the school office for a reprimand after the boy kissed the girl on the cheek.

The mother said then-assistant high school principal Jerry Bentley got out The Bible and asked her daughter to read a passage out of the book of Ecclesiastes which reads that "there is a time and purpose for everything."

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The mother said her daughter read the passage but the boy refused and at that time Bentley read the passage to them. In so doing, the mother said Bentley crossed the line.

"He violated their civil rights," the woman said. "That's what we're upset about: it embarrassed her and it violated their civil rights. It's not that we don't believe; we attend church when we want to."

The mother said she requested a meeting with school officials and that superintendent Dean Nance was "very professional about it. I thought he handled this very well."

The mother said her biggest gripe about the matter was that Bentley resigned before he could be punished for what he did: Bentley resigned as assistant principal earlier this week.

The mother said the boy's family was out of town at this time.

Nance said the school district does recognize the separation of church and state and that this sort of reprimand is not typical in the Ironton City Schools. Nance said he thinks that Bentley did not mean to embarrass either teen but only to point out that public displays of affection have no place at school.

"I do not think he was in any way trying to persuade their religious beliefs. He didn't ask them to pray 'The Sinner's Prayer' or say anything about Jesus or anything like that but I think he was trying, in a fatherly way, to get his point across that it's not a crime to kiss but there is a time and a place for it," Nance said. He said said, normally, students who are reprimanded for public displays of affection are given after-school detention.

Nance said he did meet with the two students and their families but he has not been contacted by the ACLU.

As for Bentley, who was hired as assistant principal at the high school in March, Nance said Bentley had told him he had a personal matter and may not be able to finish the year.