SPRUCE RIVER – A string of holiday events at Ramage Elementary School on Thursday were held without the presence of a live nativity scene that some students had worked on to display and perform for their classmates.
Via guidance from the West Virginia Department of Education, parents were told that the nativity scene could not be a part of the events at the school.
In response to the news, a group of parents checked their children out of the school at noon to allow the students to set up the nativity scene roadside, less than a mile from the school. The Boone County Sheriff’s Office was present at the gathering and helped guide traffic through the curve that was adjacent to the nativity scene.
About 100 people attended the program led by Pastor Ralph Caudill as he delivered a passionate message to attendees while leading them in prayer.
According to multiple parents, it was one parent that contacted the West Virginia Department of Education asking them to intervene.
April Hassler checked her daughter out of the school and they stood in the rain with many others, armed with umbrellas.
“Regardless of how broken our community is, we can still come together and do the right thing,” she said. “We can spread the word and spread the word to the person who went against us. Maybe we can change their outlook on life. It says a lot that these kids came out and did this so that we can come together as one.”
Hassler said that the parents organized the peaceful event in 10 hours.
“An attorney from the state board’s office told us that we couldn’t have a nativity at all,” she said.
The West Virginia Department of Education responded to a request for comment through email.
“This matter is an application of federal constitutional law,” the statement said while citing the U.S. Court of appeals March 2018 decision on “Freedom from Religion Found., Inc. v. Concord Cmty.”
One attendee, who would not provide their name, said that the organized display of faith was good for the kids to see.
"I know how hard the kids worked on this and we are a family of faith," she said. "I just wanted them to feel free to stand for what they believe in."
Ramage Elementary Principal Loren Berry could not be reached for comment.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @philipdperry.