CCPS memorial policy still in the works

Published 11:25 am Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A newly-formed committee designed to research policy regarding memorials at Charlotte County Public Schools (CCPS) has been working diligently to determine the future of memorials within the district.

Bacon/Saxe District School Board Member JonPaul Berkley said the committee will meet again at the beginning of December.

“A lot of different people were there,” he said, referring to the first meeting of the committee.

The committee was formed after controversy sparked from the placement of a memorial bench including scripture at the entrance of the Randolph-Henry High School athletic field.

The bench was dedicated to the late Colton Osborne, a graduate of Randolph-Henry and dedicated athlete during

his time at the school.

Berkley indicated he wanted to prevent this type of difficult situation from ever happening again.

He said the bench is still located at the school, and Osborne’s parents are purchasing a bench themselves.

He said their wishes were for the current bench to remain in place until the new one was ready.

Randolph-Henry Principal Robbie Mason previously said the family has expressed wishes to replace the current bench on school property with an identical bench that reads, “Don’t play for the trophy or the fame, play for the love of the game.”

“This was not an endorsement of any religion,” said Berkley.

In a previous interview with Leonard, she said, “Last year, a community member indicated an interest to high school administration to give a bench for the baseball field in memory of a student. The next contact was that the bench was ready and had been placed. It was not what anyone from the school administration expected to see at the entrance of the athletic facilities. However, it was a loving gesture, so we let it be.”

She said that later in the year after consulting with the school board attorney, Craig Wood, he said the bench posed a significant ‘religious establishment’ problem.

Newly-elected School Board Member Teresa Dunaway, who was instrumental in helping make the bench a reality, previously said she made it known to Mason and Randolph-Henry Athletic Director and Assistant Principal Chris Holt that the bench contained a Bible verse.

However, Mason previously said at an October school board meeting if he had known the bench included a scripture, he would’ve either explained the law prevents placing the bench on school grounds and denied the request or referred the matter to the superintendent.

While Dunaway said she is not a member of the newly-formed committee, the group has met once, and “they are trying to reach an agreement on some rules for any future requests for memorials.”

Berkley said while the details are still being discussed, the policy will likely include something along the lines of a standard 12×12 memorial for future inquiries that will be much larger than a brick but smaller than a bench.

Once the committee makes a recommendation, he said the matter will come before the school board.