MARION, N.C. -- About 100 people showed up Monday night at the McDowell County School Board meeting to oppose a decision by school administrators to force a 6-year-old girl to remove the word God from a poem in a Veterans Day program.

The school board took no action Monday night, and board members made no comment on the complaints, which were voiced by the mother of the child and by several clergy members.

The alleged incident happened at West Marion Elementary School in November, said Renata Crawley, mother of the girl whose poem was the subject of the dispute. Crawley said family members had written the poem, which her daughter was to deliver.

Crawley said the poem talked about the girl s grandfather. He prayed to God for peace, he prayed to God for strength, Crawley reported the poem originally said.

McDowell County Schools Supt. Gerri Martin told the McDowell News last month that the school system made the decision in an effort to maintain separation of church and state. She said the decision was made by her and administrators at the school.

Several parents asked the school board Monday night to establish a policy which would maintain freedom of speech for students in such a situation.

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