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Parents send cease-and-desist letters over 'In God We Trust' signs, saying they're not compliant with state law

Carroll ISD rejected "In God We Trust" signs that were created by current and former students that were designed in rainbow colors and in Arabic language.

SOUTHLAKE, Texas — Parents in several Tarrant County school districts served legal notices telling the districts to take down "In God We Trust" signs that allegedly violate state law and replace them with ones that are compliant, including signs with rainbow designs and Arabic writing.

The parents sent cease-and-desist letters to school districts in Mansfield, Keller, Southlake and Grapevine-Colleyville.

Texas lawmakers passed a law last year requiring districts to hang privately donated "In God We Trust" signs in a prominent location in buildings.

Two weeks ago, a Christian, conservative cellphone company, Patriot Mobile, donated "In God We Trust" signs to the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake.

Carroll officials accepted the signs, citing the state law.

Last week, though, the district board rejected "In God We Trust" signs that were created by current and former students that were designed in rainbow colors to support LGBTQ students and in Arabic. The donors said the signs were created to make schools feel more inclusive.

"All of us are stakeholders in this community. In this state, we’re all taxpayers, we’re all voters and we’re all citizens so we wanted to be a part of this as well," Srivan Krishna, the donor, told WFAA last week. "I felt incredibly frustrated and disappointed."

"So, we support having as many of these signs as necessary to fully give representation to the students that attend our schools," said Laura Leeman, a GCISD parent. 

But, these parents admit that their signs are a not-so-subtle attempt at political sarcasm. They don't want "In God We Trust" signs in these public schools at all.

"I would probably say our main goal is to highlight the ridculousness of the law the state legislature passed," said Laney Hawes, a Keller ISD parent. "We're fine with world religion courses and history courses. We're not interested in policies and laws that are based in single religion ideologies." 

Carroll ISD board president Cam Bryan said they no obligation to accept these donations of signs because the district had already accepted signs.

“All 11 campuses, plus the admin building, now have the poster pursuant to SB 797," Bryan said. "The statute does not contemplate requiring the district to display more than one copy at a time. Instead the statue requires a durable poster or framed copy which limits displays to one poster or framed copy in an effort not to overwhelm schools with donations.”

The law does not state that schools must stop at one copy.

After continued criticism, the district released a statement the day after the meeting referencing a letter from the bill’s author, Sen. Bryan Hughes (R – Mineola).

The letter said that the signs must be in English, which the law does not specify. It also says that no other images may be on the signs beyond the US flag and Texas flag.

Law representatives for parents asking the rainbow and Arabic signs to be hung in districts said under Hughes’ reading, the Patriot Mobile signs violate the state law because they have more than one depiction of the state flag on them. The lawyers also said the Patriot Mobile signs include stars in the background, a violation of the law prohibiting "any other words or images."

Critics of the law have continued to argue it’s an effort to indoctrinate children with Christianity in public education. Carroll ISD, which declined the rainbow and Arabic sign donation, is facing five discrimination investigations from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

WFAA has reached out to each district that was served with a cease-and-desist letter. Only Grapevine-Colleyville replied, stating it had "received a letter and the district is evaluating its content." 

Patriot Mobile officials boasted at CPAC, a convention for the right-wing conservatives, that the PAC connected to the company spent $500,000 to elect 11 conservatives on the boards of Carroll, Keller, Grapevine-Colleyville and Mansfield school districts.

The company buys its plans wholesale from carriers and then resales them to consumers at a marked-up, higher price. It then uses part of the profit to donate to Christian conservative causes.

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