Cotton’s bench

Published 11:58 am Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Something isn’t right with the controversy over the possible removal or changing of what’s on the memorial bench honoring Colton “Cotton” Osborne, which is placed just inside the front gate of Bankston Field at Randolph Henry High School (R-HHS).

Among the words inscribed on the bench is a Bible verse, the presence of which on a memorial located on public school property has been deemed illegal due to the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

Charlotte County Public Schools (CCPS) Division Superintendent Dr. Nancy Leonard said the First Amendment’s establishment clause “prohibits government from establishing a religion and from favoring one religion over another or from favoring religion generally over nonreligious beliefs.”

According to Teresa Dunaway, who was instrumental in helping make the bench a reality along with the Charlotte County Patriot players, two R-HHS school administrators knew before the bench was ordered there would be a Bible verse on the memorial.

We — along with members of this community — should be puzzled as to why the division would allow a bench with a Bible verse to be erected on school property if they knew it was against the law from the get-go.

In describing the process of how the Osborne memorial came to be, Dunaway noted that she spoke multiple times to both R-HHS Principal Robbie Mason and Athletic Director Chris Holt, who is also an assistant principal.

Dunaway told both of them there would be a Bible verse on the bench.

“I stressed that,” she said. “It has a Bible verse.”

Dunaway said that Mason said he did not think it would be an issue but that he would check and that she should touch base with Holt to learn the final decision.

After speaking again with Holt, asking if the bench could be placed, as conceived, at the school, Dunaway said, “He called me back and said, ‘That’s not a problem.’”

Well, now it’s become a big problem.

We have no doubt that someone in the school administration is at fault regarding this matter, and we call on the Charlotte County School Board to investigate.

It’s not fair that the division would allow the erection of the memorial and now say it’s not appropriate.

We call on the school board to get to the bottom of the matter and take prompt action and render a fair and just decision regarding the bench and the blunder on its staff’s part.