Conway School Department changes visitation policy after controversy

CONWAY (KATV) - The Conway School District re-works its visitor policy after coming under fire from an out-of-state group upset over ministers being allowed to visit students. The new visitation rules are in hopes of pleasing everyone. But that out-of-state group may not let it rest.

"We should allow all groups to come into our schools if they have a specific group of students that they're meeting with," said Patty Calloway, a parent at Carl Stuart Elementary.

The separation of church in state has long been a sensitive topic, especially in the classroom.

"I think they should have it," said Charles LaPreze, also a parent.

And after Conway was blasted for allowing ministers in their schools they were forced to change their visitation policies.

The new policy reads in part:

"The principal may take reasonable efforts to segregate visitors and the students they are visiting from other students such as providing a separate table for visitors and the students they are visiting."

Opponents say this solution is not practical.

"I{}don't think the school is always going to be in control of what these adults are saying to students or knowing exactly who's meeting with who," said Patrick Elliott, of the Freedom from Religion Foundation{}in Wisconsin. "So, the fact that{}they want to go in that direction is a concern," he said.

The policy still needs to be voted on but Jeff Mateer, of the Liberty Foundation in Texas, says it's fair and legal.

"It does not discriminate on the basis of viewpoint or the basis of position," said Mateer. "It is neutral on its face and as a result of that it is constitutional," he said.

But with this proposed policy Elliott wonders why the school is so adamant about allowing ministers to continue to visit.

"They're claiming their policy is neutral," said Elliott.{}"If the intent is to really keep this recruitment effort alive, that's a constitutional problem," he said.

The district will meet on Tuesday to vote on this proposal to decide whether or not to make it official.