Teachers were only mildly tolerant of my rejection of prayer, and what little tolerance they showed was probably a result of their being aware that it was they who were violating the law. I remember one time an aid kept an open eye during a prayer and commented afterwards that "some of us were not participating."
I was forced to get written permission not to attend bible classes weekly. The one time I went I was assigned the task of drawing camels. Instead of bible study, I spent my one period a week in the library, reading books. I was later joined in this exile by Scott Goldenburg, the one Jewish kid, when he moved in from New Jersey. Nathan VanHooser was later added to the short list of those not attending Bible class (he was raised in a semi-religious Catholic family). Meanwhile, my brother, who takes an interest in the macabre, became an enthusiastic member of the bible trailer student body, where he had hopes of learning something about Satan.
I quickly learned by my experiences of religion-based ostracism that it was never a good idea to discuss my religious beliefs with my peers. At times I was given to telling lies so as to avoid conflicts. This began a period in my life that was not to end until College during which I did my best to maintain an artificial persona simply for the purpose of getting along in an intolerant world of religious bigots.
Whenever I hear politicians posturing about the need to return prayer to the public school system, I am sickened both by their selfish political opportunism on a red-button apple-pie issue and by the implications of the world they would gladly vote for. Ultimately such a world will suffer the fate of Northern Ireland, Lebanon and Yugoslavia. A nation that wants to stay at peace does not force its people into situations where their private religious beliefs must be concealed.