Contributed Photo Cheerleaders hold a banner with a Bible quote at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School.
Ringgold, Ga., resident Donna Jackson said she's been wrongly blamed for causing the banning of Bible-verse signs from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School football games.
But Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Denia Reese said she banned the signs after Ms. Jackson called her last week, saying the signs could lead to a lawsuit. The school system's attorney agreed.
The action galvanized the community and prompted a rally Tuesday in support of the cheerleaders. Supporters have been urged to bring religious signs to tonight's football game with LFO rival Ridgeland High School.
Cheerleaders will bring the rest of the signs they made over the summer to an area outside the stadium designated for display. Supporters can take theirs into the stands as long as they're hand held.
Ms. Jackson, a postgraduate student at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, said Thursday in a news release that she "neither intended nor expected her (Mrs. Reese) to take the drastic action that ensued."
"I was shocked, as many of my neighbors in this community were," Ms. Jackson states in the release. "I was further shocked by the attempts to pass that decision off as somehow the result of me complaining about the unconstitutionality of the cheerleaders signs. This is absolutely false."
Ms. Jackson, whose two sons are former and present students at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High, said she contacted the superintendent because of a "school law class" she was taking at Liberty University.
Her call to Mrs. Reese was "in hope of heading off the type of community division that hasty actions have now caused," she said in the statement.
On Thursday, Catoosa County officials released a statement in which Mrs. Reese said, "Donna Jackson called me on Sept. 23, 2009, and made the accusation that the school system was breaking the law and that it needed to be stopped.
"On Sept. 29, 2009, after the telephone conversation, (Ms.) Jackson filed an open records request for financial documentation for the purchase of the supplies used to make the banners," she states.
The cheerleaders said they raised all the money to make the banners.
Local youth pastor Brad Scott, one of the organizers of the Tuesday rally, said the outcome of the controversy was a community unified behind a cause. He said he's had calls and e-mails from across the nation and overseas.
"Good has come from this," Mr. Scott said. "It has taught students to stand up for what they believe in; it's brought the community together. We're not going to back down from the cause."
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...