HS football coach fired for not stopping players’ prayers?
Tucson Unified School District officials reportedly gave Gary Weiss the ultimatum to either order his players to stop praying or turn in his playbook and lose his job. Weiss said he chose to respect his players’ constitutional rights of free speech and free will by turning in his keys and leaving the team.
“My concern is the rights of the kids to do what is their right to do,” the Catalina Foothills High School volunteer freshmen football coach told KVOA-TV after being terminated.
Weiss insists that he never facilitated or promoted his players’ engagement in prayer before or after their football games, emphasizing that the activity was always student-led and student-initiated.
In fact, Weiss stressed that players from all walks of faith on his team engage in the unifying and morale-boosting prayers. “The prayers of the freshmen team have been recited by Muslim kids, Jewish kids and Christian kids,” the coach shared.
School officials maintain that Catalina Foothills High School allows voluntary prayer when it is led by students, but district administrators said that Weiss may have stepped over the line, implying that he facilitated or promoted student invocations against TUSD policy.
Banished from the gridiron … and campus
As a result of these accusations, it is reported that Weiss is no longer allowed to step foot on school property. District officials argue that their action against Weiss is justified.
“Nothing limits the authority of the school/district to maintain order and discipline on school premises, to protect the well-being of students, and to assure that participation in such an activity is voluntary on the part of student,” said Tucson Unified School District superintendent Dr. Mary Kamerzell.
School officials noted that the U.S. Department of Education enforces similar policies regarding the restriction of coaches from prayer, saying that these rules exist because public school employees represent the state while they are working.
Instant replay: No review of ‘infraction’?
Weiss strongly denies being guilty of organizing or supporting team members’ involvement in prayers, which is the central issue in debate. The coach out of Tucson, Arizona, maintains that no adults led the invocations and that the players were inclusive in the prayers.
“No other adult in the freshmen program led the kids in prayer,” Weiss professed.
He would like to district to review and reconsider its decision and invites school officials to properly investigate their allegations.
Upset at the school officials’ decision to let him go over their allegations, Weiss’ frustration continued to rise after he was told to leave school property when he tried to show up for practice last week.
There has been considerable backlash in Tucson over the firing of the coach on both sides of the religious plain.
Both former students and parents alike have voiced their objections on social media about the district’s decision to remove the popular football coach from the team and school.
Many parents have expressed that they ultimately want the final decision to be left up to the players — not district officials off campus.
“I don’t believe in religion and I’d rather have my kids not praying, but it’s up to them,” said one parent of a Catalina Foothills student, Alex Van Niekerk.
Despite the school’s dealing with Weiss, a video of varsity players praying at a Catalina Foothills High School football was recorded and posted via social media as recently as a week ago last Friday.
As reactions to the decision continue to be shared on Twitter, residents in the Tucson community are waiting for a reaction to the public outcry as Weiss remains benched from leading the Falcons at the beginning of the football team’s season.
Comment: Is this where we are heading? Where has my America gone? It is getting sadder that a few individuals can control the majority. It is like our school board’s decision to not start board meetings with a pray, because someone might complain or sue. Maybe the rest of us should complain because we are not praying, maybe a class-action law suit. Again it comes down to freedom, we are losing it by the hour. About the kids in Denver, it is their right to stand on the street as long as they are not supposed to be in school. Isn’t there a law about being in school?
Integrity in Leadership