ARAB, Ala. -- A citizen filed a complaint against the Arab City Board of Education and has an issue with the way the former fight song Dixie was removed, and lack of prayer before football games. The board's attorney and the superintendent said there isn't wrongdoing.
Superintendent John Mullins made the decision to do away with Dixie this school year. "With the best interest of all of our students in mind and without any external pressure, I made the administrative decision that we will no longer play Dixie. While I fully understand the difficulty of changing a tradition, the song has negative connotations that contradict our school district's core values of unity, integrity, and relationships," Mullins said at the time.
Arab citizen Stacy George filed a complaint with the Alabama Attorney General's Office because the decision wasn't made in public. "My complaint basically states that you cannot break the Sunshine Law or the Open Meetings Law or you can't even on purpose circumvent the law," George explained.
"The Open Meetings Act specifically says the board cannot discuss or deliberate any item that is likely to be on an agenda, or to be considered by the board at some point in the future," Arab City Board of Education attorney Clint Maze said.
George said the board made a decision on Dixie months ago, but during our interview with him shortly after the decision became public Mullins said he discussed the change with board members and other school leaders, but said he took full responsibility for the decision. "Because this item was going to be decided by the superintendent and never decided on by the board, any discussion by the board members is not a violation of the Open Meetings Act because it was not going to be a board decision. It was always going to be the superintendent's decision," Maze said.
George also has a letter from the Foundation for Moral Law, an organization founded by Roy Moore, about prayer over the loudspeaker before football games. "The public acknowledgment of God on an intercom that we paid for is not, nothing wrong with it," George said, "Freedom of religion is exactly what it says. It's not freedom from religion in the Constitution, it's freedom of religion."
Prayer over the loudspeakers stopped in Arab seven years ago. The decision to do that was based on the Supreme Court's decision in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe. "A clear reading of the Santa Fe case, it appears to be directly on point in prohibiting the Arab City Schools system allowing their public address system to be used for the purpose of a Christian prayer prior to a football game," Maze said.
George also contends the board meets inconsistently, and during school events, but Maze said it gives the proper notification. Maze explained while the board meets each month, the particular night of the meeting has been changed to accommodate other school functions. The only notice requirement for the board is to post notice of the meeting in the central office seven days before a meeting and to email a notification to any person who requested to be notified directly.
Maze said the Marshall County District Attorney's Office is investigating the board in response to George's complaint. He said the board is cooperating and expects the finding will be that there were no violations.