Palm Beach County teachers who were offended by an “In God We Trust” sign displayed in front offices prompted the school district on Wednesday to come up with a new way to comply with a recently approved state law.
The School Board agreed to use the state seal, which also says “In God We Trust,” in place of Palm Beach County’s homemade design, which posted the words in bold capital letters. The seal is more subtle and can’t be criticized, board members said.
“Who can be offended by the state seal?” asked board member Karen Brill, who came up with the idea. “It’s one of those stories where employees see something that rubs them the wrong way.”
In March, Gov. Rick Scott signed a law that says schools must post the motto in a “conspicuous place.” The measure, passed by the state Legislature, was sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, who runs a Christian ministry.
The law requires “each district school board” to display the motto inside “all of the schools of the district and in each building used by the district school board.”
“In God We Trust” has been the state’s motto since 2006, although it’s been on the state seal since 1868 and on the state flag since 1900, according to the Florida Department of State.
Palm Beach County schools’ Deputy Superintendent Keith Oswald said schools have been given flexibility on where and how to post the motto. It’s typically been placed at the counter of the front office or near the front desk, he said.
Brill said she heard from several teachers who took umbrage at the district’s prominent placement of the motto. She said they felt it violated church-state separation, but didn’t realize it was now a state requirement.
“A few of them were very offended,” she said.
Several Florida school districts are making use of the state emblem to comply, including Lake, Osceola, Seminole and Orange counties.
Palm Beach County School Board member Erica Whitfield said the district should develop a consistent display method.
“We should work toward having it look nice,” she said. “We’ll make it look more professional.”