Protect Children Project holds ‘peaceful demonstration’ outside of Panhandle High School

Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 7:25 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2023 at 7:37 AM CST
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DUMAS, Texas (KFDA) - The Satanic Temple’s Protect Children Project held what they say was a peaceful demonstration outside of Dumas High School against the district’s policy on corporal punishment.

The TST says the purpose of the demonstration was to provide “Student Rights Cards” to assert that members of TST are exempt from certain punishments in public schools due to their religious beliefs.

“So we have this, it’s called a Student Rights Card and it basically asserts that because of our deeply held belief in bodily autonomy, which is one of our seven religious tenants, that one’s body is invaluable, subject to one’s will alone, that members of our religion are exempt from corporal punishment, solitary confinement, seclusion, restraint or denial of being able to use the bathroom,” said Eliphaz Costus, campaign director of Protect Children Project.

TST claims corporal punishment, seclusion, restraint and denial of bathroom access violate their religion and civil rights.

“I absolutely encourage them to get rid of corporal punishment. But that’s not really a demand we’re making. We’re not from here, but I think it’s the right thing to do, and we’re here to just offer our religious exemption as a tool for students to protect themselves,” said Costus.

Dumas ISD officials released a statement this week, saying the Dumas ISD Board of Trustees adopted a policy under which corporal punishment is permitted as a method of student discipline. The district says students and parents are informed annually of the district’s use of corporal punishment and advised that they may opt out of the punishment.

“It’s an opt-out procedure, you know, it’s in our student handbook that we can use corporal punishment, or swats or paddling, whatever you want to call it, as a method for discipline, and parents do have the right to opt-out of their child receiving that, and even here at the high school, they give kids a choice whether they want to receive swats or another form of discipline,” said Stan Stroebel, assistant superintendent for personnel at Dumas ISD.

Regarding today’s demonstration against their school policy, Stroebel says it showcases the freedom Americans have to exercise their freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble.

“This is the first time I’ve seen a protest of any sort, and it’s a great opportunity for our kids to see and look you do have that freedom to do that,” said Stroebel. “It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything, and that’s what makes America America, and we have ASVAB tests going on today, and we have military personnel show up today, and that’s what they fight for. They fight for everybody to have that right, so I see this as a positive learning experience.”