Tennessee High School Football Team Defies School Board, Holds Post-Game Prayer


After a school board in Tennessee banned teachers and coaches from praying with their students, members of the Upperman high school football and their parents team took it upon themselves to rewrite the script.

Last week, Putnam County Schools administration informed staffers that they are no longer allowed to lead students in prayer or participate in student-led prayer. The decision was made in response to a letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

According to the group, there have been multiple instances of post-game prayers and proselytizing seen at the Cookeville and Upperman high schools.

After consulting with the school board attorney, a spokesperson for PCS stressed that case law prohibiting prayer or proselytizing “is clear,” noting, “Courts have consistently ruled that prayer and proselytizing cannot be sponsored by schools or school personnel.”

The PCS attorney also urged administrators to enforce all prayer-related policies at school-sponsored activities.

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In a statement to FOX 17 News, the district acknowledged “the importance of prayer in the lives of our students, faculty, and staff members,” saying that administrators “support the right of students to participate in and lead spontaneous prayers.”

“That right is and will continue to be protected,” the district added. “We also understand that faculty and staff members cannot lead or participate in the spontaneous student-led prayers.”

The school board’s decision to bar all staff from student-led prayer has ignited a faith-filled movement among students and parents in the district, who have since decided to take matters into their own hands.

One parent, Dustin Whitefield, explained to FOX 17 News that parents were going to lead their children in prayer after a football game between Upperman High and Stone Memorial last Friday.

“We do realize this is a public school, but it has always been optional for players to pray, and has been a voluntary event. Players that still want to pray will have to do it on their own,” Whitefield told the outlet.

He said that parents will join players and cheerleaders who choose to gather in prayer after the game as a sign of support.

“We will join hands and encircle them from a distance as a sign of protection and solidarity in choosing to continue to pray,” Whitefield continued. “This is a parent-led event! We are encouraging anyone that would like to show their support to please join us.”

Following Friday’s game players, parents, and scores of attendees from both schools gathered in prayer, and solidarity at the center of the football field.

Photo courtesy of Trina Allison

Bob Vick, a graduate of a PCS school and a fan of the Upperman football team, posted a moving image from the demonstration, which has since been shared over 3,100 times.

“Satan’s power was defeated tonight, as the threat of legal action to forbid prayer after the game was overwhelmed by player lead prayer, supported by parents and fans in solidarity on Overall Field,” Vick wrote. “God bless the Baxter and Stone players for their faith and courage.”

Another mom, Trina Allison, shared several photos of the teams, athletes, students, and fans gathering in the prayer led by high schooler, Elijiah Burgess.

Photo courtesy of Trina Allison

Allison also shared a photo of football moms holding hands and praying in a circle before the game.

Bri Lamm
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Bri is an outgoing introvert with a heart that beats for adventure. She lives to serve the Lord, experience the world, and eat macaroni and cheese in between capturing life’s greatest moments on one of her favorite cameras.