COLORADO SPRINGS — Representatives of a local Christian church tried to lure a seventh-grader at Russell Middle School into a church van last week, school district officials said.
As a result, the principal sent students home with a letter to parents asking that they instruct their children not to talk to strangers, and the district has beefed up security around the property at 3825 E. Montebello Drive.
The letter to parents did not identify the church, and the district — acting on the advice of its attorney — has declined to name it. But sources told The Gazette that it was Cornerstone Baptist Church, which is about 2.5 miles from the school and has gotten into trouble in the past for baptizing children without parents’ permission.
Students at nearby Keller and Fremont elementary schools also have been approached by church members, and church proselytizing has been escalating in recent weeks at Russell. Still, officials were unprepared for what happened Thursday, district spokeswoman Elaine Naleski said Friday.
“We have never had a problem like this before,” she said. “We are shocked by their actions.”
A few weeks ago, officials at the school met with the church’s leader to complain about members coming on school property to preach the Bible, Naleski said. But rather than stop, church members started proselytizing from public sidewalks outside the school.
The school will seek a no-trespassing order if church members resume harassing children on school property, Naleski said. But it will be up to parents to take legal action against the church if their children are approached in public areas outside the school.