Dr. Scales admits "misstep" in failing to inform Board on prayer - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Dr. Scales admits "misstep" in failing to tell Board about prayer decision

Dr. Jim Scales Dr. Jim Scales

By David Carroll


CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Under fire from Hamilton County School Board members for being "blindsided" by last week's ban on led prayers at school events, Supt. Jim Scales says he "takes full responsibility" for not keeping them informed.

District 1 representative Rhonda Thurman sent Dr. Scales this message on Friday:

"Dr. Scales, I would like to know why board members were not informed when HCDE received the letter of complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation concerning prayer at football games? This is especially irritating to me because the school, Soddy-Daisy High, is in my district. Also, why was the board not sent a copy of the letter sent to principals so we would know what was going on?   Board members should NOT have to find out in the media about important issues going on in our schools."

Mrs. Thurman said most other Board members agreed with her complaint, "even Linda Mosley and Chip Baker," who usually oppose her on most issues.

Monday, Dr. Scales issued this response to Mrs. Thurman and other Board members:

"The failure to notify the Board when I received the letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation was a misstep on my part, and I take full responsibility for the oversight.  When the letter was received (which you now have a copy) from the foundation, I contacted legal counsel for advice.  Although the letter states that a Soddy Daisy student had complained about prayer over the public address system at football games, I did not consider the issue to be a Soddy Daisy issue.  The law pertaining to public prayer before athletic events and graduations is a Hamilton County Department of Education issue.  I acted in what I considered to be the best interest of the District.  I checked with legal counsel and considered his advice before I sent a memo to all principals.  The decision to send the memo was mine.  

 Again, I take full responsibility for the oversight, and I shall work to make sure that I check with the Board in the future before undertaking such critical issues.  However, my actions put the District in compliance with the law.  I have asked Attorney Scott Bennett to lead the Board in a discussion of the law prohibiting prayer over the public address systems at athletic events, at graduations, and other events.'  

The Board is scheduled to meet in a work session Thursday to discuss the prayer issue.  The meeting is set for 5:00 p.m. in the Board meeting room on Hickory Valley Road.

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