The use of Mammoth Middle School facilities by local community church, Mammoth Christian Fellowship (MCF) has recently raised concern among at least a few parents.
On Thursday, Kelly and June Simpkins met with MUSD Superintendent Rich Boccia to find out why a church is allowed to hold its services on school property when public schools are expected to maintain a position of neutrality when it comes to religious views.
Boccia pointed out that according to school policy, which is bound by Education Code, the schools are allowed to rent out facilities to groups such as churches as long as the group is not meeting at the school when students are present. This type of rental program is operated under civic center permits.
Currently, Mammoth Christian Fellowship uses school facilities on Friday evening, Saturday evening and Sunday morning, according to Boccia.
The Simpkins were surprised by the use when June saw one of MCF’s signs on campus on a Sunday as she headed out of town. She called Boccia and then she and Kelly began asking around town to find out if anyone knew that MCF was operating at Mammoth Middle School. According to the Simpkins they have not found anyone who was aware of the use.
“We would like the public to know that this is happening so we can talk about it,” June said. “We don’t want to see the school sued.”
For the Simpkins, the discovery is reminiscent of another religious group they say operated on the school campus in 2008. A group that they said was called the “Good News Club” was operating on campus under the radar and “trying to create soldiers,” according to June. The couple admitted that this previous group was much more radical, but found it odd that a church was operating on campus once again during an election year.
“Is it coming from Florida,” June asked. “It’s an aberration of church and state. I know schools don’t have money but I’m not willing to sell my school.”
After speaking with Boccia, the Simpkins were somewhat relieved to hear that other groups such as girl scouts and boy scouts used the facilities with the same types of permits, but there were still questions that they wanted Boccia to answer.
“We weren’t aware that this happens regularly with permits,” Kelly said. “There might not be any problem.”
However, the Simpkins were still concerned that a recent school dance had taken place on a Friday when the church was meeting at the school. They were also concerned over the legality of a recent donation of a new automated projector screen to MMS from MCF. The donation was reported in the Feb. 20 Middle School Messenger.
Boccia asked for a week or two to look into the questions the Simpkins had and the legalities of the current board policy, and get back to them. The couple agreed. One solution the two parties discussed was compiling a list of the groups and organizations using school facilities and posting it in a public place for everyone to view.