A former student sued a school district regarding a practice of including student-led prayers at the beginning of some meetings of the board of trustees. He claimed that he felt affronted by the prayer and that it meant that the district was "favoring religion over nonreligion." The district court dismissed the lawsuit and it was appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal court that includes Texas.

The facts introduced to the court showed that the board holds monthly meetings in the district's administration building, which is not located within a school. The meetings include sessions open to the public. Attendees are free to enter and leave at any time. Most attendees are adults, though students frequently attend school board meetings to receive awards or for other reasons, such as brief performances by school bands and choirs. Two students open each session, with one leading the pledge of allegiance and the Texas pledge and the other delivering some sort of statement, which can include an invocation. Those student presenters, typically either elementary- or middle-school students, are given one minute. School district officials do not direct them on what to say but tell them to make sure their statements are relevant to school board meetings and not obscene or otherwise inappropriate. At a number of meetings, the student speakers have presented poems or read secular statements. But they are usually an invocation in the form of a prayer, with speakers frequently referencing "Jesus" or "Christ." The prayers are directed at the audience through the use of phrases such as "let us pray," "stand for the prayer," or "bow your heads." The lawsuit alleged that this practice was an impermissible school-sanctioned promotion and endorsement of prayer.

The court of appeals disagreed and dismissed the lawsuit, holding that the practice was acceptable. In doing so, it observed that “the opening of sessions of legislative and other deliberative public bodies with prayer is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country.” The court noted that the practice of student-led prayer at a board meeting was different than prayer in schools because a school board is a deliberative body, as opposed to a classroom or school event, and because the prayers are directed at board members and attendees as opposed to students.