A Missouri school district has decided to punish its superintendent for praying during a recent high school graduation ceremony.

Superintendent Kent Medlin of the Willard School District in Willard, Missouri, will be suspended for the next month before his previously planned retirement afterstudents complained over a his statements at Willard High School’s commencement.

The decision to officially place Medlin on a paid leave of absence came on May 26 when the school board met to discuss the matter, concluding that the best remedy would be to keep the superintendent on leave until his contract expires on June 30.

“[This] action was based upon the board’s belief that Dr. Medlin’s High School Commencement speech violated Board of Education policies regarding prayer at school sponsored events,” a statement from the school board read.

An interim superintendent — Assistant Superintendent Dr. Stewart Pratt — will fill Medlin’s role until the new superintendent, Dr. Matt Teeter, who was hired months ago, takes his position on July 1.

The move is “largely symbolic,” according to the Springfield News-Leader, as Medlin had announced plans to retire a few months back. He has held his position in the district for the past 14 years.

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