Student suspended for in-school prayer called "disruptive," protests follow


Posted on March 16, 2010 at 12:46 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 16 at 6:18 PM

Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - A teenage girl standing up to pray at a Louisville middle school has been suspended.

Her principal calls it a disruptive and potentially dangerous.

The girl was a member of the Salvation Army Corps Cadets.

She says she arrived back from a weekend retreat in which she was told to stand up in school and proclaim her faith.

The student did so in the cafeteria Monday, and now is under a two day suspension.

Salvation Army employees protested the action in a prayer vigil earlier today.

“Jesus answered, I am the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the father except through me,” was the verse Aly Aguilar planned to share in the lunchroom at Farnsley Middle School Monday..

“To cause a disturbance, that's the entire reason that I started doing any of this,” Aly said. “I want to show everybody that God is the only way.”

“She was extremely fired up. She was lit up,” said her mother Carla White. “She’s like Mom. I've felt called and I really want to do this. I really feel like I have to.”

But Principal Rob Stephenson had a different take on the issue.

“I approached the girl. I didn't know what she was doing and I asked her to get down off the chair. You can't do that,” he said.

Stephenson, who carries a cross in his pocket, says the problem wasn't Aly praying.

“She can't put herself in a dangerous situation. She can't stand up on the cafeteria benches,” said Stephenson.

Aly was suspended for two days.

“They went too far,” said White. “Two days suspension for standing on a chair and trying to quote a scripture? that's extreme.”

Salvation Army supporters showed up today to protest through prayer.

“She's an individual who's standing out and trying to create a disturbance, not one that will harm people, but one that will serve people,” said Lt. Christopher Coulson in prayer.

When asked why she didn’t just protest in front of the school, Aly said, “I wanted to do it in front of my friends. I wanted them to be the ones that heard everything, because they're the ones who know me best.”

Aly says her actions were inspired by the speaker at the Salvation Army retreat.

“I believe that if a student is gonna stand up and express their faith in Jesus, I have no problem with that, but they have to understand there are consequences and rules,” said Lt. Coulson.

“The adults that are out there asking the kids to do that, they need to be careful what they're asking,” said Principal Stephenson. “These are vulnerable kids. They're between 11 and 14-years-old. “

“Hopefully, it will show them that it's ok to take a stand and to take the punishment for it because it is for Jesus and it's not for attention. It's for him,” said Aly Aguilar, who said she would do the same thing all over again.

Aly has never been in trouble before and her family says she is a straight "A" student.

Her principal hopes she'll focus her future efforts on participating in the school's Federation of Christian Athletes program, which holds prayer vigils in the gym every Friday.