In what may be a nationwide first, a group of students in the small town of Tylertown, Miss., are staging a walkout because of the end of their beloved religious program.
The First Priority program in the school district about 50 miles west of Hattiesburg, Miss., allowed students to pray, hear speakers, sing and take part in other faith-based activities, WLBT reports. District officials told the station that the program is not being targeted.
Wade Carney, Walthall County, Miss., schools superintendent, said that the key issue is that such programs cannot take place during school teaching time. The students can take part in the program before or after classes, he said.
The students, however, are following in the footsteps of people who’ve preceded them in Mississippi.
They have announced they will not return to class until First Priority is reinstated. They have been sitting outside and chanting during their demonstration.
“When I got to school, I just went there and protested because I feel like we deserve to have First Priority in school because children these days need God,” Tylertown High School senior Aaliyah Lewis told the station.
“We’ve had First Priority every year,” senior Kaitlynn Brown said. “I just love seeing all of us come together and basically share the gospel with each other.”
First Priority meets monthly.
Parents seem to be supporting the students, bringing them water and sandwiches as they demonstrate outside.
Carla Brown, whose two grandchildren attend the high school, told the station that not everyone attends church and the First Priority program may be the only way children can practice their faith.
“I come to support them,” Brown said. “They’re trying to take First Priority from them. They’ve had it now for 15 years and I support them”
Carney said that the group meeting time policy applies not only to First Priority but all student organizations.