An Alabama teacher claims she was sent home to change after school officials deemed her t-shirt inappropriate. The clothing item in question had two simple words on it: “Just pray.”
In a Facebook post, elementary school teacher Chris Burrell explained that she “didn’t think twice” about wearing the shirt.
“I wasn’t trying to promote religion, it was just my Monday feel good shirt,” she wrote.
Burrell told local news outlet WALA-TV that she wore the shirt to show support for Aubreigh Nicholas, an 11-year-old Alabama girl who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in 2017.
Speaking to WALA, Mobile County Public Schools Superintendent Martha Peek explained why the school’s principal found the message problematic. Initially, Peek said, Burrell was asked to “put on a sweater or something.”
“So at the point of looking and seeing ‘pray’ on it, the principal said, can you put on a sweater or something, knowing that there are other people who object to that…we have to be cognizant of everyone’s beliefs or everyone’s thoughts in a public school,” the superintendent explained.
Peek said the principal was just following standard school procedures, which say teachers and students can’t wear clothes that express a particular belief.
At the time, Peek said, the principal was unaware that the shirt was worn in support of Aubreigh’s Army, an organization created to help raise money for the child’s treatment.
“We’re totally supporting her, I think that this was just an unfortunate connection there, but still the principal would have had to exercise her judgment,” she explained.
Burrell’s initial post caused quite the uproar, gaining hundreds of shares. Many commenters voiced their support for Burrell and expressed concern over the school’s policy, which they saw as a clear attack on religious freedom.
According to WALA, no disciplinary action was taken against Burrell, other than the initial request that she change.