In 1992, following on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Lee v. Weisman (1992), the Smithburg Public School District changed its policies regarding prayer at graduation and during school-sponsored extracurricular activities. On the advice of legal counsel, the school board went on record as forbidding all types and forms of prayer (whether vocal or silent) during the school day and at all school-sponsored events. The new prohibition applied to every school in the school system, and to all administrators, teachers, coaches, support personnel, and students.
In July 2001, Ernesto Sanchez is appointed as the new superintendent of schools. Two months later, feeling very much affected by the horrible events of September 11, Ernesto decides that it is time to revisit the school board's prayer ban policies. He wants to recommend to the board that students at the elementary, middle, and secondary school levels have opportunities to engage in prayer at any time they feel moved to do so during the school day, as well as during any school-sponsored activities, especially graduation. Ernesto also wants to recommend to the school board chair that the board itself set an example by praying at the beginning of each school board meeting.