Local News

Graduation Tiles Draw Debate At Raleigh High School

Posted May 12, 2003

— A senior class project at

Green Hope High School

has students defending their First Amendment rights. They want to leave a piece of themselves behind after graduation, but school leaders say it is against the rules.

Matt Trent and his classmates center their lives around prayer and their faith in God. It is a belief they are happy to talk about, but one they said they cannot express at their high school.

"For me, that is an expression of my beliefs. I just believe that every student should have the right to express themselves," student Rebecca Adams said.

As part of a class project, each Green Hope senior was asked to paint a symbol of themselves on a tile that will be mounted on a wall inside the school.

When more than a dozen students painted religious symbols and biblical scriptures, school leaders asked them to take the tiles down.

"By me having that tile up, and by me saying, 'I'm a Christian and speaking out,' I'm not forcing people to say you have to be a Christian. This is what I am, this is what I believe in," Trent said.

"I know that it goes beyond Green Hope, but I don't point the finger at anybody. All I know is I love the Lord," student Andrew Bradham said.

Students said removing their tiles is a violation of their First Amendment rights. School leaders said the tiles are a violation of state law and school rules.

"Given the fact that this will be a permanent addition to the school, they wanted to err on the side of being a little more sensitive to the various cultures. We were afraid people may take offense to one religious philosophy," said Michael Evans, Wake County Schools spokesman.

It is a philosophy these students take so seriously they have decided not to replace their tiles at all.

Another group of students painted marijuana leaves and beer bottles on their tiles. They were ordered to replace their artwork.

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