DUMAS, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Protect Children Project, a campaign by The Satanic Temple, will be at Dumas High School on Friday. Organizers said they plan to peacefully talk with students about their religious exemption from corporal punishment.
Dumas ISD Superintendent, Monty Hysinger, said in a statement earlier this week that the Protect Children Project advised the district in advance that they will be on the sidewalk outside of Dumas High School before and after school on Friday. He also said the district informed parents and students.
“Dumas ISD is committed to maintaining a safe and orderly environment for everyone,” Hysinger said in the statement.
Eliphaz Costus, the campaign director for the Protect Children Project, called Dumas High School’s use of corporal punishment “egregious.”
MyHighPlains.com has not substantiated that claim as Hysinger and other district officials were not available for interviews.
“Please note that pursuant to section 37.0011 of the Texas Education Code, the Dumas ISD Board of Trustees adopted a policy under which corporal punishment is permitted as a method of student discipline.” Hysinger continued in the statement. “Only corporal punishment administered by District personnel in compliance with the District’s corporal punishment policy is allowed.”
Costus said TST will be handing out what he calls student rights cards to those who are interested in their religious exemption to corporal punishment, seclusion, restraint, and denial of bathroom access at the high school.
“It’s an official, Satanic Temple document that asserts member’s religious exemption from those punishments I mentioned,” said Costus. “Because, you know, for us, corporal punishment, you know, being hit by somebody else at school is a violation of our, our deeply held belief of bodily autonomy, which is one of our seven religious tenants.”
He continued, “That is not allowed against members of the Satanic Temple and so we just want to make that information available and hand out cards and brochures to anyone who might be interested in finding out about it, or anyone who’s already a member who is not aware of this tool yet to protect themselves.”
In Hysinger’s statement, he noted that parents have an option about whether their children receive corporal punishment, saying: “Students and parents are informed annually of the District`s use of corporal punishment in the Dumas ISD Student Handbook and Student Code of Conduct. Parents are advised that they may provide a signed statement prohibiting its use.”
“I think it’s it’s also very possible that a lot of parents don’t even realize that,” Costus said. “We also believe that you know, children who are attending the school have a right to their own religious beliefs, their own deeply held beliefs about bodily autonomy that might not agree with their parents’ deeply held beliefs.”
To provide regular and uninterrupted school operations, Hysinger said the district has coordinated with Dumas Police, the Moore County Sheriff’s Office, and Texas DPS. He also said DISD will have dedicated security in place.
Dumas Mayor Bob Brinkman said on Thursday that there are some concerns in the community, but the group coming to the school will be assigned to the courtyard.
“I really believe that you know, this is gonna go smooth. I believe our police department has a very, very good plan in place,” said Mayor Brinkman. “And you know, from what I’m hearing, we do expect it to be peaceable, but we’re prepared for the worst. We’re hoping for the best.”
According to Hysinger, DISD remains focused on students and how they can provide the best instruction possible.
“Dumas ISD respects the rights of all individuals to express their concerns and opinions in a peaceful and lawful manner,” he said in the statement.
Costus said the TST is also working to make sure the event goes smoothly.
“We’re used to having people share their opposition to the Satanic Temple, and that’s fine. You know, everybody has the right to express their beliefs under the First Amendment peacefully,” Costus continued. “On this issue, we have, clearly, the moral high ground when it comes to not hitting children.”