A mandatory April 19 Asheville Middle School assembly that included religious content has school officials apologizing, and promising to be “a little more skeptical” in the future.
The assembly featured Time to Revive founder Kyle Martin, while the organization was holding a seven-day revival event in Asheville. According to Asheville Schools spokesperson Charlie Glazener, Martin was a different speaker than the one expected,
“The gentleman was a late substitute, a different person than the one our leadership team had met with,” he tells Xpress. “They’d vetted it, had a couple concerns, but decided to go ahead with it after we were assured it would be purely secular, which is required by law. According to the assistant principal that was there there was only one mention of God that came near the end,” though the presentation did refer to a number of New Testament parables.
“There were four students who were called up to talk about their goals, and I think some folks felt like they were put down by the speaker if they didn’t have the goals he was looking for,” Glazener adds. In exchange for the assembly, Time to Revive provided landscaping services to the school.
Glazener estimates that about a dozen complaints came in that day, and AMS Principal Mary Sullivan sent out the following message to parents:
Good evening Asheville Middle School Families,
After attending a scheduled RtI training this afternoon, I was informed by Mr. Miles, Mr. Barkett, and Dr. Pollocks, that the motivational assembly scheduled for this afternoon strayed from its intended purposes. I apologize and ask for your pardon regarding the motivational speaker, who, while not exactly quoting Christian scripture, misrepresented the message and strayed from the agreed upon presentational content. He incorporated New Testament content within his motivational message.
We were assured (our SPMT chairperson, a PTO parent and I) that the message was to be motivational, but completely secular. Evidently it was pointedly a Christian presentation. Again, I regret that he violated the agreed upon secular motivational assembly; furthermore, I will personally express my regrets to the students.
Please know that the presentation was not to incorporate religious values; nor, to cause anyone to feel uncomfortable or angry. Additionally, I will be contacting the speaker to express my sincere disappointment in the lack of respect not only for our request, but also for the complete disregard for the fact that the venue was absolutely unsuitable for his presentation.
The assembly was mandatory (though students involved in other activities were given an exemption) because, Glazener says, “the principal and I felt like it would be a good event for students, at this age group they need to hear from folks who can talk about life goals.”
But “when we do something like this we need to be a little more skeptical, especially if the speaker is associated with an evangelical group.”