Aspen school official affirms secular policy
Aspen’s school superintendent articulated the district’s policy of secularism yesterday in an effort to calm concerns over the alleged recruiting of student athletes by a Christian summer sports camp.
Superintendent Diana Sirko said it is school policy not to allow private organizations to recruit on campus and to forbid any forced interactions between religious groups and students.
Sirko said she will meet with concerned parents by appointment today to confirm the school district’s commitment to equality.
“I want to make it clear that under no circumstances would we promote something that was discriminatory in nature,” Sirko said.
The statement comes after controversy was raised by an article in the Skier Sentinel, Aspen High School’s newspaper, in which sophomore Alex Beinstein alleged that the director of a Christian-based sports camp said during a classroom presentation that Jews would not be allowed to participate in his summer camp for Aspen students.
Gary Young, director of the Ultra West Sports Training camp, denied the allegation in an opinion column published April 19 in The Aspen Times. He said all students are allowed to participate in his camps, but confirmed that his camp counselors are Christian and that 10 minutes a day of his camp are devoted to faith-based discussions.
Sirko said Young was not speaking to the class to recruit for his camp, but was lecturing on health and fitness. She said Young’s summer camp, although directed at students, will be held off school property. Young will use the Aspen Recreation Department playing fields, which are rented over the summer by the city, not the school district.
Young confirmed in a message left on an Aspen Times message machine that he was speaking to the high school health class to promote his camp.
When told of the message, Sirko replied, “If in fact he did pitch his camp, that wasn’t our intention and it goes against our school policy,” Sirko said.
Sirko also said it is not unusual for religious groups to use school property, as long as they don’t interact with students. She cited the example of a schoolhouse in the Colorado Springs area used by a local church for Sunday services.
Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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