Parents want religious instruction in Bowling Green

Some Bowling Green parents want to introduce religious education to their children during the school day.

With LifeWise Academy, students in grades K-4, with parental permission, can receive character and religious instruction during the school day.

Michael Perkins, who has two daughters at Kenwood Elementary, asked the school district’s board of education at its Jan. 23 meeting to adopt a release time for religious instruction.

“We and many of the families we know within our community would value and appreciate an opportunity to have a weekly Bible education class,” he said.

LifeWise Academy teaches the younger population the values in the Bible. Classes are non-denomination and follow the Gospel Project, which teaches Genesis to Revelation in an age-appropriate way.

In 1952, the U.S Supreme Court ruled that students can be released from public school during school hours to attend religious classes. These “released time” classes must be off school property, privately funded and parent permitted.

The academy already offers instruction in the Eastwood and Elmwood school districts. There are similar programs in Van Buren and Findlay schools.

Perkins said that 400 signatures from the community were needed before the next step can be taken.

According to the LifeWise Academy webpage dedicated to Bowling Green City Schools, as of Monday there are 432 interested people within the community.

“It would mean so much to us as Bowling Green parents if the Bowling Green City Schools will adopt a policy which would give more opportunities to our children and the other children in Bowling Green,” Perkins said.

He said LifeWise academy and religious education will help teach kids to be respectful and responsible.

Sandy Steiner is a member of the LifeWise advancement and growth team and is in her third year as program director at Pandora-Gilboa schools, west of Findlay.

She said that LifeWise emphasizes character development. As students are released during the school day to learn Biblical history, they also are taught lessons in character qualities such as respect, integrity, honesty and truthfulness.

Three criteria must be met: The class must be held off of school property and must be privately funded; students must have their parents’ permission.

Steiner said LifeWise was introduced in K-4 classes in Pandora-Gilboa in 2020, was expanded into the eighth grade last year, and this year is being offered to K-12 students.

High school students are receiving a one elective credit for attending the program, Steiner said.

Abigail Hahn, an intern with LifeWise, said there was a Bible class where she went to school in Indiana. She was signed up as a kindergartener “and it taught me a lot about who I am with the Lord’s help.”

Hahn said she grew spiritually, emotionally and mentally.

“It’s a cause worth talking about,” she said.

Zachary Ellifritz, who is the youth and outreach coordinator at Dayspring Church, said he is seeing a need for further character development, not just in Bowling Green but in other school districts.

“We as a community have the responsibility to help raise these students and potentially the next leaders of this generation,” Ellifritz said. “It’s with that responsibility and the responsibility as leaders of this community that we must strive for constant improvement and help the next generation get better.”

These programs are key to attracting people to town and keeping them here, said business owner Craig Dixon.

Rick Busselle, who is an associate professor at Bowling Green State University, objected to any religious activity that disrupts the public school process, and especially the use of his tax money to support any religious activity.

He also asked what kind of schedules would need to be arranged for getting all of these kids off campus and to the LifeWise site.

Ryan Myers, board president, thanked those who spoke for the information and said there is a lot for the board to discuss.