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Mechanicsburg High School

Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School.

Mechanicsburg Area School District officials responded Tuesday to recent claims it has banned students from handing out Bibles during lunch periods.

In a news release issued Tuesday afternoon in advance of tonight's scheduled school board meeting, the school district said it does not ban "the Bible, Torah or the Koran or any other religious material at Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School."

Members of the Christians in Action Student Club at Mechanicsburg high school said they attempted to hand out Bibles during a lunch period last month, but were ordered by administrators, including high school principal David Harris, to stop. The Independence Law Center, a pro-bono legal group representing the students, accused the district last week of banning students from distributing the religious materials and ordered it to rescind the ban.

In its news release Tuesday, the district charged the Independence Law Center with issuing inaccurate allegations. The district said the student group failed to submit a formal request for distribution of Bibles and the ILC never contacted the building administration to discuss the issue.

Curtis Schube, legal counsel for the Independence Law Center, is a resident of the Mechanicsburg Area School District, the ILC said in a news release.

"The ILC press release is misleading. The student group never submitted a formal request for distribution of Bibles, and the ILC never contacted the building administration to discuss the issue. Instead of submitting a request and working with the high school administration in a collaborative manner, the ILC’s approach has evoked negative emotions that divide our school and community," the district's news release reads.

Independence Law Center said in its news release Tuesday morning that attorneys from its organization will attend tonight's district school board meeting at 7 p.m. at Elmwood Academy to discuss the district's "unconstitutional actions against members of the school's Christians in Action student club."

Jeremy Samek, senior counsel for the Independence Law Center, will attend the meeting along with Schube, according to the news release.

Here is the full news release issued from the school district:

"Last week we received a claim from the Independence Law Center (ILC) that the Bible was banned from Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School. We have investigated the allegations from ILC and will provide a response directly to the organization. The letter and press release from the ILC are inaccurate. There is not a ban on the Bible, Torah or the Koran or any other religious material at Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School. Students are always permitted to bring, read, share and discuss the Bible at school. We welcome and encourage students with all backgrounds and religious views to express themselves.

"There are rules any student or group must follow when they wish to formally distribute any material to other students during the instructional day, inclusive of lunch. These rules are established to respect the rights of all students, create a sense of belonging in the school, and ensure there are not disruptions to the school day.

"The ILC press release is misleading. The student group never submitted a formal request for distribution of Bibles, and the ILC never contacted the building administration to discuss the issue. Instead of submitting a request and working with the high school administration in a collaborative manner, the ILC’s approach has evoked negative emotions that divide our school and community. We would gladly engage in a conversation that instead takes the time to consider what is best and inclusive for all students and respects the wishes of many parents in our school community. It is our sincere hope to resolve this issue with facts."

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Email Jeff at jpratt@cumberlink.com. Follow him on Twitter @SentinelPratt.

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Executive Editor

Jeff Pratt is the Executive Editor at The Sentinel.