Debate over Bible verse on memorial bench continues

Charlotte County School Board members. (Photo: WSET)

CHARLOTTE Co., Va, (WSET) -- Members of the Charlotte County community gathered at the Charlotte County Public School Board meeting Tuesday night in an effort to preserve a memorial for an 18-year-old who died in an ATV accident last year.

Students and community members raised nearly $1,500 for a memorial bench in honor of Colton Osborne, which was placed at Randolph Henry High School's baseball field eight months ago.

The school board said there is a slight problem with the bench. There is a Bible verse on it, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

They said having a biblical quote on school property isn't legally compliant due to an establishment clause.

The school board said they have not received any complaints about the bench. Many people said they outraged and confused as to why the bench quote needs to be altered or moved entirely.

"Children that put a lot of time and effort into raising money to purchase this bench and they're gonna be watching and noticed when this bench gets moved and they'll be asking why," said David Locey who is in favor of keeping the bench as is.

Community members said the school board and principal of Randolph Henry High School knew about the quote before the bench was even dedicated in the Spring.

But school board members and the principal of the high school said Tuesday night at the school board meeting they were unaware of the bible verse quote until between late Winter and early Spring.

Those who were at the meeting said they are disappointed with some of the school board members as well as the administrators.

It is currently unclear what will come of the memorial.

An attorney from Charlottesville was at the meeting Tuesday night. He said to the school board that it was not against the law for them to have the memorial at the baseball field on school property.

He said the bench does not force any religious viewpoints. He said that it is a memorial for Osborne and apart of who he was as a person. He told the school board that to move the bench off school property or alter it is not the message they want to be sending.

The school board came up with an idea to create a committee of school board members and three people from the community to form a policy for Charlotte County Public Schools.

There were two policies brought up Tuesday at the meeting by the superintendent that they will consider looking into adopting.

The first policy they mentioned was a policy that gives indication of what kind of steps would be required to be completed before a memorial is to be placed. The superintendent said this policy would include needing to have something in writing.

The second policy they will be looking into, not having physical memorials of any kind to honor students, but having scholarships instead in their name.

Choosing a policy for the school system will happen once the committee is formed and they collectively choose which one to go with.

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