BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. - Some parents say they were kept in the dark about youth pastors volunteering at a public school on Bainbridge Island.
Concerns from parents at Woodward Middle School led to the school district hiring an investigator. Tuesday night the investigator's findings were released and discussed at a special School Board study session.
The report states that the youth pastors were told to not discuss religion on campus. However, the independent investigator found on two occasions that rule was broken; once with a new student at the school, and another time when a student (who also attended the pastor's church) asked a religious question at school. Additionally, the investigation found youth pastors invited some students to off campus religious activities. On the whole, youth pastors volunteering in the lunch room did not use their time and access to promote religion or convert students to their faith, according to the report.
The controversy began months ago when parents noticed the men on campus.
"We knew they weren't staff and we knew they weren't parents," said parent Dawn Weber.
It turned out the men were youth pastors from local churches. One of the pastors is associated with Young Life, a religious group that reaches out to young people.
It led some parents, like Joe Weber, to raise questions about diversity.
"Where was the Rabbi in that group? Where was the Scientologist in that group? They weren't there. There were three Evangelical Pastors," said Weber.
Others at Tuesday's meeting said this situation has led to the three men being treated unfairly, especially on social media.
"Comments and threads that were accusatory, biased, and misleading have made me very sad," said one parent.
Another concerned citizen stood up and said, "I've heard all the people that have said we want to keep volunteers, but not Christian ones. I want to warn us not to go there."
Superintendent Faith Chapel is recommending that lunchtime volunteers be replaced with paid, trained staff. The district also plans to review its policies and procedures about volunteers.
The issue will be discussed at next school board meeting on December 12.
Here's the school's report.