Bible verse on memorial bench for student has to go, superintendent says

Posted at 7:43 PM, Sep 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-29 19:43:51-04

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, VA (WSET/CNN) - A school system in Virginia says it has to change a bench that memorializes a teen who died last year in an accident because it contains a Bible verse, and the school board says it's not legal. 

Charlotte County School Superintendent Nancy Leonard says memorials are a frequent request. "The community of Charlotte County is a very sweet and loving community and they do frequently request to give memorials,” she said.

So that's why the school system worked with their attorney to come up with a policy on how to handle them. "And during that work, we found that the memorial bench that we currently have is not legally compliant because of the Establishment Clause (in Constitution), because of the Bible verse," she said.

Leonard says it was a community idea and effort to place the bench on school property, and they installed it last spring at Randolph Henry High School. The school held a memorial service during a baseball game and dedicated the bench in 'Cotton' Colton Blake Osborne's memory. He passed away in 2016, WSET said.  He died in an ATV accident, the report added. 

The verse, Philippians 4:13, says, " I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  WSET said Osborne loved baseball so the bench was placed next to the baseball field. 

And while they've had no complaints about the Bible verse, Leonard says they need to follow the law.  "We either have to remove the bench, or we have to cover the scripture or change that verse to something else that may represent the child,” she said.

The school system is working with the family to come up with a different quote to replace the Bible verse.  The school will pay to change the wording on the bench. 

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