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Nathaniel has the right to express his beliefs, as long as they aren’t forced upon others or disruptive, he said.
“This would seem to cross the borderline” because he’s an authority and his behavior could be seen as coercive because it’s with students, Tanick said. “This area is a somewhat muddled, gray area, and far from clear cut.”
Gayla Colin, a bus driver for 13 years in the district, says she “absolutely” sees her time on the bus with kids as an extension of the school day. She said that though she is a Christian, she would never think of praying on the bus. “It’s not appropriate,” she said. “That belongs at home, the teachings.”
The district is diverse, and some bus routes are made up primarily of Muslim students, Colin said.
Sanaa Hersi, whose family is Muslim, has a child that rides the bus home from Neill Elementary and said she would be concerned about prayer on the bus without parents knowing. “That would confuse the kids because we teach them to pray in the Islam way,” Hersi said.
But Nikki Williams, whose three children also ride the bus to and from Neill Elementary, said “it wouldn’t bother me at all” if a bus driver prayed with students.
“I think if someone is praying, they can either be included in it or not,” Williams said. “If they don’t like it, they can just ignore it.”
Nathaniel said he talked to parents as he saw them at bus stops, let them know he was a pastor and asked if it would be OK for him to pray with the kids on the bus. “The parents I talked with, they were in agreement that I was doing fine,” he said.
Nathaniel said that he had driven school buses in Wisconsin and Georgia before coming to Minnesota and that he had always prayed with the kids.
“We got to get Christians to be able to be Christians and not have to be closet Christians,” he said. “You have something good, you are going to share it with somebody.”
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