Community rallies behind principal accused of violating First Am - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Community rallies behind principal accused of violating First Amendment

The community is showing support for Walnut Hill Elementary/ Middle principal Albert Hardison, who came under fire after sending a newsletter home to parents with Biblical references. (Source: Demetria Carter- Parker) The community is showing support for Walnut Hill Elementary/ Middle principal Albert Hardison, who came under fire after sending a newsletter home to parents with Biblical references. (Source: Demetria Carter- Parker)
CADDO-BOSSIER PARISH, LA (KSLA) - Many residents in the ArkLaTex are rallying behind the Caddo Parish principal accused of violating the First Amendment by making Biblical references in a newsletter.

A Facebook support page was created for Walnut Hill Elementary/ Middle School Principal Albert Hardison in the aftermath of the allegations from the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Hardison reportedly included a reference to Philippians 4:13 in the March newsletter that went to parents and staff.

The newsletter read:

Dear Parents:

As our students prepare to take the state mandated tests, LEAP, iLEAP and PARCC, please pray that our God will give them the strength and mental fortitude, the patience, the wisdom, and the energy to do their best. Please help our children understand the meaning of Phillippians 4:13...I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

In just a few days, the number of supporters has gone from a few hundreds to thousands on the Support Albert Hardison Facebook page.

"It's growing hourly. People are sharing it, getting the word out," parent Penny Cardino said.

Cardino says it's the students who request prayer from Hardison.

"They go up to Mr. Hardison, 'I'm having a bad day. Would you pray with me please,'" Cardino said.

They say whatever Hardison is doing is working, and there is no need to change a thing.

"Some of the children are so passionate about it, if Mr. Hardison is forced out or forced to retire, they will not attend Walnut Hill," Cardino said.

"I just feel that this is a disservice to Mr. Hardison, and he just needs to know that we love him and support him and we're behind him," she added.

"I completely support Mr. Hardison and all that he does, as far as my family and I are concerned," Walnut Hill teacher Labresha Lane said.

Supporters are planning a Prayer at the Pole event in support of Hardison at 10 a.m. Friday at Grawood Baptist Church in the 5800 block of Colquitt Road in Keithville. Nearly 500 people have joined the event's Facebook page.

Hundreds have posted on the Facebook support page page, with most saying how he's a great principal. The page, created Tuesday, has more than 5,200 likes.

"I've never (known) a better school principal than Mr. Hardison. He is as great a principal as he is a man of professionalism and integrity," Helen McDearmont Clark wrote. "My daughter and son were blessed from kindergarten to eight grade under his leadership. He's always in my prayers."

"This man changed my life. I can't thank him enough. We need more men and principals like him. Thank you Mr. Hardison for your dedication and support," Kevin Hudson wrote.

Cortney O'Brien chimed in on the page as well, saying, "My whole family went to this school with him as a principal. 100% supportive of him."

Local businesses are also supporting Hardison. Time-It Lube locations in the Shreveport-Bossier area have identical messages on their signs, saying, "Thanks Albert Hardison. May God bless you."

A supporter posted a video of Summer Grove AutoCare's sign, which read, "God Bless Mr. Hardison!" 

In an open letter from ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie Esman to Caddo Schools Superintendent Dr. Lamar Goree, the ACLU said Walnut Hill "has engaged in a pattern of religious proselytization by sending messages to parents invoking prayer, and through a lengthy 'Principal's Message' on the school's website."

Esman urged Goree to remove religious references from Walnut Hill's website and any other school communications and educate staff on Constitutional protections from religious indoctrination.

Caddo Parish Public Schools launched an internal investigation into the matter, according to a statement released, and removed all questionable material from district websites.

"At the same time, the district remains committed to protecting student freedoms. This includes their abilities to lead and participate in prayer and other religious activities, and we will equally continue to work to ensure student freedoms are not inhibited," the statement said.

The ACLU and those opposing Hardison's message in the newsletter say that his "religious coercion" is illegal.

"The principal needs to set a good example and follow the law of the land. If he doesn't he's telling kids they can make up their own rules," Amy Edmonds commented on ksla.com.

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