Atheist handout goes smoothly

By Pat Sunderland


Despite intense media scrutiny and a flurry of Facebook posts, the distribution of atheist and "freethinking" materials in Delta County schools last Friday was a remarkably quiet event. Some people even referred to it as a "non-event."

Organizers from the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers report school staff was "welcoming and respectful." On their Facebook page, they noted the literature was readily available to middle and high school students. At Delta High School, all the literature had been picked up by the time they arrived on the premises. "All went well, the sky didn't fall," organizers noted.

They're now planning an "Ask an Atheist" pizza gathering at the Delta Middle School cafeteria April 14.

"The idea of the program is to help support the beleaguered atheist kids at DMS, several of whom have been harassed and bullied, let them know we care, and to give other kids at the school a chance to find out more about atheism," WCAF posted on Facebook.

School superintendent Caryn Gibson agrees the distribution of the controversial literature went very smoothly, "Students, teachers, parents ... everyone was very respectful," she said.

Some parents had threatened to keep their kids home on April 1, and attendance did seem a bit lower, particularly at Delta Middle School, said Gibson, who added she hadn't seen any actual data. But that Friday also followed on the heels of state testing and led into spring break. Plus, some students were out of the building for activities and field trips.

But the furor was clearly a distraction, so the school district's "open door" policy is going to get another look.

"Moving forward, this brought to our attention we need to look at this policy," Gibson said. "We're going to look at how other districts handle noncurricular materials."

One option is an electronic distribution system, where parents who opt in can receive eflyers on their computers or mobile devices. The flyers can also be made available to parents through the school district's website.

"We're going to take our time and figure out what's best for Delta County," Gibson said.

Policy revisions require three "readings," or reviews, the first of which is administrative. A policy review committee oversees the second and third readings, before forwarding the policy, including any changes they've made, to the school board for formal approval. School district attorney Aaron Clay is part of all three reads, Gibson said.

The entire process could take several months.