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Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Smokey Briggs


By Smokey Briggs

Court didn't ban prayers,

just prayers to a god

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that school districts may not allow students to lead stadium crowds in prayers at football games.

"School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible," Justice John Paul Steven wrote for the Court.

In their reasoning, I think the Court missed one important point.

That point revolves around the Court's definition of "religion."

To get to this missing point, you have to take a hard look at what a "religion" is, and examine the underpinnings of government.

When you whittle away the trappings of any religion, what you find is a system of beliefs - a system of ethics. This is true with Christianity, Islam, Hindu, etc.

When you look under the hood of any government, and any government institution such as a school, you find the same thing - an underpinning structure of beliefs. A structure of general rules. A religion.

What the Court accomplished yesterday is to ban belief systems that are associated with a god.

There will still be, and there will always be, a system of beliefs that drives every government institution. The only difference is that the belief systems that are currently acceptable make no acknowledgment of a god.

Make no mistake, these systems of belief are a religion. They are a religion followed just as devoutly by their adherents as Christianity is by hers.

So at the next high school football game, take a moment and listen to the collective mumbling of the crowd. Listen to the blare of the bands. Listen to the opening whistle. Listen to the absence of any prayer.

While you are listening you will hear the prayer of the atheist. You will hear the prayer of the secular humanist - a religion that does not acknowledge a god.

It may be silent, but it a prayer none-the-less, and this one is sanctioned by the state.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Smokey Briggs is the editor and publisher of the Pecos Enterprise whose column appears on Tuesdays. He can be e-mailed at:

Our View

Race card doesn't play in this hand

Today, there is a letter from School Board President Louis Matta on this editorial page.

In his letter Matta says that the recent articles and opinions published by the Enterprise regarding the school district were racially motivated _ that these articles are simply an attempt to destroy the school board that recently gained a Hispanic majority.

"It amounts to no more than good ole' racial politics," Mata says in his letter.

This accusation does not make sense - especially when you consider the racial makeup of the parties involved, and the school board, at the time these events occurred.

A Caucasian child got a failing grade from a Hispanic teacher. A Hispanic principal changed the grade. A Caucasian superintendent agreed with the principal. Then, a school board made up at the time of three Caucasians, three Hispanics, and one African-American, rubber-stamped the decision to change the grade.

The race card simply does not play in this hand.

Crying racisim at this point is nothing more than another smoke screen meant to obscure the real issues involved.

Your View

School trustee thinks biased

To the Editor:
The good people of Pecos have been force-fed your biased, slanted opinion long enough. You may know something about the newspaper business, but you have no concept of what the school business is all about. Now, let's address the issues:

1. You have accused Mr. Rodriguez of being unfair to the students in Mrs. Bauer's class because he did not automatically assume that every student in that class wanted their grades reviewed when one of the parents requested that their child's grades be reviewed. This is ridiculous. The only way Mr. Rodriguez could have acted unfairly would have been to deny another parent's request to review their child's grades.

If one of your subscribers came to you and complained about the poor service they were receiving from one of your newspaper carriers would you automatically assume that all of your carriers were providing poor service and reprimand them all? Well, you probably would. Our school administrators and teachers are faced with fairness issues every day and I have faith in their ability to make the right decisions. This grade change issue is no exception.

2. The Bauers submitted student discipline records to support Mrs. Bauer's grievance concerning an academic grade change. How could student discipline records be relative to a dispute over an academic grade? These student discipline records were from the previous school year. How would the Bauers have had access to these records? This is the question that led the Administration and the School Board to believe that the privacy rights of the students whose names appeared on these discipline records had been violated.

The Bauers refused to comply with Mr. Love's directives to return, to the school district, all student identifiable records in their personal possession. They also refused to sign and return, to the Superintendent, an affidavit in the event they did not have any student records, and had not revealed the student's names or records to other persons. The Bauers refusal of these options gave the Administration and the School Board no other choice but to take appropriate action.

It is obvious to any "semi-intelligent" person that your only interest in this whole affair is to promote Smokey Briggs...and possibly sell a few more newspapers.

Concerned citizen and parent,
PBT-ISD Trustee

Flavorful comments enjoyed

Dear Editor:
I really enjoy your flavorful comments which show your talent for writing and keeping your audience coming back for more. Unfortunately, some of the comments that were printed on the editorial page lately, (please don't get huffy and defensive as if I were accusing you of something, because I'm not) indicate lack of knowledge of the due process procedure in the educational community.

I will try to explain what I mean with no malice of fore thought toward any person, directly or indirectly involved, or readers of the editorial page, but in order to inform to the best of my ability and knowledge.

Citizens of the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah independent School District the officials of the school board to represent them like the citizens also elect officials in the other local, state, and national governing bodies.

The school board is the educational judicial review board which follows procedures for the appeal process concerning educational grievances. There are levels at which to begin before going to the next level Even in education, because it too is a business, he must follow the prescribed protocol if one is ignorant of the rules and regulations, because they are uninformed or choose to ignore them is no excuse for not following them.

If one does not know the law, then pay someone who does in the educational system, the appeal of a grievance continues to the next higher level until satisfaction with decree OR ed to the next level. The decision decreed may not be satisfactory, but it is a judgment rendered! The due process allows educational employees to be heard before the judicial review board, openly if desired, so that all parties concerned can present evidence to support their actions. Evidence is immensely important! In the business community as well as the educational community, the by word is Document! Document! Document!

The readers may not have first-hand knowledge of how evidence, including documentation, is used in an appeal of accusation, commonly called a grievance, but a majority understand the due process if only from watching judge Judy or other small claims court presentations on television.

When the judge (or school board) says that the case is closed, or case dismissed, or judgment for X or Y _ then it is OVER! The school district is the final authority within its jurisdiction.

If one has no documentation in the lower levels, then it would be futile to further appeal in higher levels known as a court of law where legal fees, court fees, and time to pursue an appeal could bankrupt one over a grievance in which they participated.

Educational employees can choose from several unions, which for a fee collected, will provide insurance, magazine, newsletters, and other material to inform and protect their membership.

Ignorance is NOT bliss, and as the Internal Revenue Service puts it, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Please Pecos people, become informed of what one can do, when they can do it, and the approved procedure to do it! These series of articles show that the knowledge of fact and knowledge of due process could be improved.

We can help each other by following due process, closed or open, and not "try the case in question' through the media which becomes like the parlor game "GOSSIP', even if it does keep everyone reading the paper.

If I have said anything to offend anyone, forgive me. The intention is to edify and let us be Pecos Proud, not Pitiful Pearls.


School Board President says coverage is racist

Dear Editor:
I shared the following memo with fellow board members. Now allow me to pass it to you and our citizens.

The attacks continue. And will continue until their point is proven. Pecos Enterprises' editor thinks he has discovered a novel mechanism to destroy the credibility of a governing body: What he has failed to find out it that the tactics the newspaper is using are only political trickery older than the tales of Pecos Bill.

Yes, I will be the first to tell you that Pecos' schools have personnel problems, instructional problems, and financial problems. What School District doesn't. It has been my experience that most of those problems are solved as they arise. I remain adamant that the important questions Board Members should get honest and quick answers to relate to our customers: students and their parents when problems occur. In short, how does this question relate to providing the best education possible for our customers. If the best reason is that you are responding to an issue created by the newspaper or by another citizen, then you must ask yourself how your response will affect the best interest of your customer.

Often, in dealing with personnel issues, the less said the better. Always, when dealing with a student's issue. Nothing said proves a sound tactic. We are dealing with people and there are always at least two sides to every story. Those that choose to attack us as board members don't have to follow this advice because they didn't take that oath that we did. At the end of the day, they forget their allegations and go on to another issue. We as board members can't.

So why would the Pecos Enterprise and its editor choose to attack this school board. The Pecos Enterprise was given certified copies of every correspondence, document, transcript and record pertaining to this issue through the Freedom of Information Act. The same record was presented to TEA and a State Administrative Judge who found that his court had no jurisdiction over this matter because no law had been violated And yet, the editor's analysis of the evidence drew a different conclusion. My advice is that we go with the Judge. It amounts to no more than good ole' racial politics. Look around you. You see students, school employees, administrators, concerned citizens, and other board members.

What do our attackers see? Too many brown faces, too many Hispanic principals, too many white traitors who are dealing with them, and no one on the inside to give them the dirt. Their point it that any governing board not controlled by them, must be discredited and disbanded. It's 2000 you say, and this just doesn't go on anymore. Let me suggest to you that it does and that the attacks on this school system are aimed at discrediting the Hispanic majority board, and the Hispanic-majority administration.

I've seen these tactics used before in the State of Texas and in Reeves County. So the mechanism is not new, but the damage it can produce takes its toll. Holler loud enough and often enough and some will begin to believe most citizens in this District will deny that they share those racist convictions and I believe them. But I am not speaking about those that are not racists. I refer to those who will not allow the election process to function if their candidates don't win. I expect much denial and grandstanding from our attackers rationalizing that they are only acting for the good of our community. This begs the question of how days upon days of half truths, and severe editing of the pertinent information provided can lead to the betterment of our schools.

Our legal counsel assures us that we are on firm legal ground., and that allowing ourselves to be provoked will not help our standing. The only result it that we will help sell newspapers. Our goal to providing a better education should not include increasing the readership of any newspaper.

I have been an integral part of many school Boards, and many other advisory committees. The last Board and this current one are, without a doubt, as good as it gets. Don't let a newspaper editor put doubt in your worth as a positively contributing citizen. School Districts in the State of Texas are tightly governed and monitored; more so than County and City Governments. We must adhere to the strict letter of the law as set by the Texas Legislature and policed by Texas Education Agency. We, as a matter of policy, do not wait until someone shouts "it's time for an investigation" to initiate internal and external audits.

As a Board we have chosen the conservative approach in all matters to consult with lawyers specializing in Public School Law. Often, this seems to be slow and tedious but more than once, it has been proven as the best road to take. When the day is done the Board should be proven right and justified.

As to the subject of how future grade changes will be handled and what procedure will be utilized to assist parents and students who wish to challenge a grade, I have asked the superintendent to check with legal counsel in preparing procedures for our consideration.

Concerned Citizen
President _ PBT-ISD School Board

School boards press release _ absurd

Dear Editor:
I must commend you on your column concerning the school boards accussation that you withheld information from the community. It was absurd.

I read the Pecos Enterprise daily via the internet, and have followed this story closely. When the school board released their statement, I too was wondering whether they had even read the articles printed earlier in the series. In my opinion, this issue should not be closed.

Also, I can not believe that Mr. Rodriguez did not defend his faculty. As soon as we allow the children and parents to take control of grades, the faculty has lost control of the classroom. Why do we even have a grading system in the first place? If we want to make this normal practice, I am beginning to think that maybe some of my grades should be changed and I should be valedictorian of my class. Is it too late to contest that point?

I guess I could go on and on about issue. The fact of the matter is, parents should have a more active role in their children's performance in school. This would allow them to be aware of how their kids are doing.

This would also give them the opportunity to question their children's grades or the teacher's grading system during the grading period while the teacher has all the appropriate class work on hand vice weeks after the class is over.

We need to remember that the teacher's are not the enemy. They have a job to do and that job is to teach our kids and prepare them for life on their own.

The world is an unforgiving place and we all know we can't change everything we think is unfair.

Again, I could go on, but I will not continue. To answer the question most of you may be wondering, yes I do have children in school and yes my wife and I monitor their performance and communicate with their teachers on a daily basis. This is what I believe to be a big key to their success. I commend you again Mr. Briggs and thank you for allowing me to share my feelings as well.

Hampton, Va.

Family kept in prayers, thoughts after incident

Dear Editor:
Thank you for your article and picture of Jan Pattillo feeding one of the orphaned calves whose mothers had been slaughtered on the David Pattillo Ranch out of Balmorhea.

It is sickening to me to think there are individuals in our county that murder defenseless animals. And what makes this even more horrible, the majority of the cattle here are big pets due to the continuing drought and constantly being fed. They would have greeted the intruders enthusiastically.

I've never known a better or more charitable human being than David Pattillo. Little did any of us know of the pain and suffering that David and Jan would have to endure because they care about our community.

I ask each of you to keep the Pattillos in your prayers and let them know that none of us will tolerate this murderous behavior. We can also donate to the reward being offered. It's just a matter of time until the guilty are brought to justice. Thank you!

Private Citizen and Taxpayer

Food for thought

Dear Editor:
I'm so glad to see someone taking the time and interest in re-opening the old State Theater. That place holds alot of fond memories of growing up for me. I had my very first kiss there. My hat is off to Richard and Lilian. I'm so glad yall took the time, thought and money to re-open that theatre.

I just wanted to let you know, I live in the Dallas area and I just wanted to share an idea with you. Plano just recently opened a Movie Studio Grill. It's been very successful, and very convenient. You can go into the theatre, purchase your ticket, pick your own table to sit at, and eat a full blown meal while you watch a movie. I know this is a long shot for Pecos, but, I just thought I'd help you with any future ideas.

The Studio Movie Grill has seats that are staduim seating, so the lady with the big hat won't be blocking the screen, customers have a table in front of them.

The tables have soft lighting underneath a small lip located at the head of the table, so, when the lights go down for the movie, you can still see what you're eating. They also serve beer and wine at the Studio Movie Grill. I know the State Theatre has that upper deck. That would make a great kitchen. Of course, I know just as well as others that takes money for ideas so grande. But, just kinda put it in the back of your mind for now and see if it may spark some interest around town. Just a thought.

Congratulations Richard and Lilian. I commend you for re-opening a place that remains close to my heart.

Plano, Texas

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