Teacher Reports Walking in on Bible Study Session in a GJHS Classroom

GJXCFRONTA teacher reported to Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) that she accidentally stumbled into a Bible study group being held at Grand Junction High School on Tuesday, January 12 during lunchtime in an Advanced Placement (AP) English classroom. The teacher who walked in on the group was looking for a microwave oven to heat up lunch.

According to the teacher who walked in on the prayer group, the English teacher whose room it was in was present at the study session and sat, without interacting, while a younger man was talking. The identity of the younger man who was speaking was unclear, and it is unknown if he was a teacher, an older student, or from off campus. The Bible study session was being held in a room in the northern-most block of classrooms to the east of the main building, in the part of school that holds language arts and some science class rooms.

Teachers Cannot Lead, Organize, or Participate in Prayer with Students

The U.S. Department of Education Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, states that under the law, teachers cannot lead or organize prayers, or participate with students in prayers on school grounds during school time.

The relevant official guidance is as follows:

“When acting in their official capacities as representatives of the state, teachers, school administrators and other school employees are prohibited by the Establishment Clause from encouraging or discouraging prayer, and from actively participating in such activity with students. Teachers may, however, take part in religious activities where the overall context makes clear that they are not participating in their official capacities. Before school or during lunch, for example, teachers may meet with other teachers for prayer or Bible study to the same extent that they may engage in other conversation or nonreligious activities.”

For insurance, state law or policy purposes, teachers or other school employees may be required to be present during meetings of student clubs, but if a student club is religious in nature, employees of the school can only attend as monitors, and must make clear they are only there as a monitor.

It was unclear whether the teacher present at the January 12 Bible study session at GJHS was acting as a monitor or was an active participant in the session.

Many Proselytizing Incidents Revealed

Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers encourages area citizens to report violations of separation of church and state on their website, and have a web form for this purpose. WCAF protects people reporting such incidents by keeping their identities anonymous, unless the person specifically says it is okay to reveal their identity.

So far, WCAF has received reports of a teacher in Delta leading prayers in middle school classrooms before school, luring children to the prayer sessions with doughnuts, and of students being forced to watch a Christian play in a Delta public middle school, of a Delta Middle School teacher quoting the Bible in class and telling students “the bombers are not Christians,” of a video being shown in a Grand Junction middle school gym class that promoted a church’s youth indoctrination center, and a teacher handing out permission slips to kids so they can attend the indoctrination center. WCAF has also received numerous complaints about Good News Bible Study groups being held after school in several District 51 elementary schools.

The Child Evangelism Fellowship, which operates Good News Clubs, sued District 51 to get their Bible study sessions held in public schools after school.

33 comments for “Teacher Reports Walking in on Bible Study Session in a GJHS Classroom

  1. Benita Phillips
    January 25, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    It cry “UNCLE” AP.
    Ann thank you for having an open forum like this. We diverged a bit.
    I hope this new allegation grinds up the status quo a bit to let people know expectations.

  2. Benita Phillips
    January 25, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    AP…I say “Here, Here” I am not accusing anyone nor am I supporting anyone.

    I would like to know why professionals are not acting like professionals. I would like to know, like you, why the supposed channels and processes were not followed by the teacher that supposedly walked in on a possible unsanctioned meeting. And yes, this guy could have been a felonious “anybody.” I want an open transparent investigation. That is all I want. That is all I called for with CMU hiring practices and Steve King’s employment at CMU; all I called for within the MCSO work records and how officers timed in and out; all I called for the Airport Authority Board’s approval and abandonment of the “admin” building and subsequent federal investigation. And again today they have fired their 5 month old pick for the Airport manager. None were OPENLY INVESTIGATED with transparency and in a manner that honors the taxpayers and the law.

    Maybe an investigation is beyond the will of the Dist. 51. Maybe believing that the plight of high school students is a good excuse not to interfere, turn away the questioning glance. Let the powers that be continue to have free reign, especially when it comes to imparting anything to do with Christ. But that doesn’t feel right…does it?

    One thing though… you said times are hard enough for kids now. How are they so much harder then they were for your childhood or mine? We had “duck and cover” with nuclear conflagration hanging over our heads. I know how hard it was for my folks. Those difficulties made me independent, not needy to have a book or person tell me how to live my life and to question, question, question. Belief is esoteric.

    Give me the scientific process and I will show you a miracle.

    • American Patriot
      January 25, 2016 at 6:49 pm

      Has someone filed a complaint with an authorized investigative body alleging that a crime has been committed? It sounds to me like someone is suggesting an in-house investigation with the school district. That’s kind of like being assaulted by someone and then asking their brother to investigate.

      If the policies being followed or not being followed by district 51 constitute a violation of federal law, tax or otherwise, wouldn’t it be appropriate to file the complaint in that venue? Has that been done? Or is the investigation a witch hunt in search of a violation? Think about it Benita.

      And I’d love to stay and talk with you, but I still have a job to do. So if you’ll excuse me, I need to set up the DVR and prepare to take notes on the town hall meeting, which I hope is more exciting tonight than the usual watching hair cuts or paint dry.

      But just as an aside, isn’t it interesting that the establishment of both political parties are in denial about what’s really happening with the American voters? Ah, but alas, history provides the answer. Revolutions always come as a surprise to the elitist ruling class. I suppose they just can’t imagine anyone but them making a decision. Remember, God loves us. Otherwise, why would he have made so many of us?

      Okay so the microwave just dinged. I’ve got my double buttered popcorn, my diet spring water, milk duds and an open mind. And I’ll check with you later. Happy motoring. How about them gas prices?
      AP

      • American Patriot
        January 25, 2016 at 9:18 pm

        Well, I must say I was impressed by Bernie’s sincerity. And I sensed a real concern for what we in the Tea Party call “the least of these”, the young, the old and those that don’t live as well as others. Maybe it takes one to know one.

        My concern with what Bernie said is that his plan is simply unworkable in the face of opposition. And a plan (no matter how good) that can’t succeed is one of the things that I find most desirable about Bernie’s ideas. Bear with me, and I will explain.

        There was a saying in the early years of the Vietnam war that it was better for an FNG (—- New Guy) to get killed in the first few days he was in country. The theory being that he wouldn’t suffer as much. You see I believe our country is headed for a train wreck. Now, we can argue about how that might or will happen, but it really doesn’t matter how we get there from here. It only matters that we can get there from here.

        You’ve probably heard of preppers. They are people I deal with every day. They’re a cross section. But the one thing they have in common is that they’re thinking ahead, trying to find a way to get through the train wreck with the least amount of pain to their families as possible.

        The effect of Bernie Sanders would be very much the same as pulling a band-aid off quick. If we lived through Bernie, the equal and opposite reaction would, (without a doubt), be catastrophic to his support base, who would be stuck with the job of rebuilding a once great nation in which the resources (along with the one percent) had already fled.

        How long do you suppose it would take them to get back up to a fifteen dollar an hour living wage? And who do you suppose the ones that didn’t make it would be? The elderly, (takes one to know one), the disabled, and those at the bottom of the food chain (it takes one to know one)? But perhaps these people wouldn’t even notice.

        It’s always a depression when you’re broke. And those folks know about pain. And they’re expendable. Hell, we discard them every day. And none of the important people seem to notice. If I were to offer my humble advice to Bernie, it would be in the form of a question; don’t you think it would be smarter to lock the door first?

        Next Martin O’malley. Yawn, sorry, just caught a few zzzzs.

        Hillary Clinton; A spirited debate? With pre-screened questions? Status quo will never go. No wait, I can explain; my vote on the Iraq war was a mistake caused by the Bush administration…. Doo dah doo dah, place hand gestures here. You’ll really just be electing Obama’s third term. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

        “When I am president, I will lead you to come together with our enemies. Republicans really love me. I just want to hug them”. Jesus H Christ on a rubber crutch. This woman would fit right in with the inner circle of the RNC. Winning is everything. After that, none of what she has said will matter. Reset; status quo. People died, Hillary lied.

        Want something done America? Donate to the Clinton Foundation. Everybody’s money is good there. Give us your tired, your poor, your dead presidents. Travel is an accomplishment if you can find a way to do it on somebody else’s dime. Drink of the magic elixir. Swallow the kool-aid.

        Are you ready for four more years America??? Really??? And will there be an after that? And did I mention, I’m an energy voter?

    • American Patriot
      January 25, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      How is it harder today? Well, Benita, I would say because a much greater number of children are growing up with out parents. Oh they meet in the hallways, or perhaps spend an hour or two watching TV together on weekends; and more of them grow up in urban areas, which to my way of thinking means they grow up too fast.

      Old people, well for the most part, they’re tethered as never before to a system that keeps them medicated and irrelevant. As a nation, we respect education, and we discard the vessels of our stored wisdom. There are some fates worse than duck and cover.

      The dogs don’t work for us because they like us, they work for us because we fight with sticks and can make fire. When I grew up and where I grew up, the wisdom was the education. And dogs that wouldn’t hunt were mobile food. And you won by surviving. And it all was a lot easier to understand.

      Duck and cover? Well hell, everybody dies. It’s just a matter of when, with a dash of how thrown in. Youth is not wasted on the young, it’s necessary. Now, I can’t prove that scientifically, but if you don’t believe me, just ask an old person.

  3. Benita Phillips
    January 25, 2016 at 11:06 am

    AP, you are not going to change what happened at the school by preaching gospel and questioning deity validity issues.
    If there is any chance that underage kids were “encouraged” without parental consent, to listen to an “man” or “boy” not pre-approved by the Dist. 51 administration to utilize public facilities, during a public school day, then the LAWS of THIS NATION and THIS STATE have been violated. I would say the same if the group were meeting,under the same circumstances, to hear a local or nationally acclaimed Islamic scholar or Atheist.
    This could be a total misunderstanding. All Ann and the WSAF want is a plausible, transparent, logical explanation that addresses the law.
    Believe in “GOD” as you wish. But you and I know that what you are writing is NOT the crux of the issue. That crux…those facts, need an investigation for the truth of the matter. I do not want my tax dollars to support illegal meetings that could put vulnerable kids at risk due to of proper professional supervision. Remember…pedophiles, rapists and human traffickers have been known to “disguise” themselves in religious dogma and legitimacy to reach the vulnerable. We need to be sure.

    • American Patriot
      January 25, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      Benita,

      Tell me, as a grass roots candidate for Mesa County Sheriff, did you believe that an atheist blog was a fair and impartial investigative body? What we are seeing here is not a violation, it’s simply an accusation, accompanied by unsubstantiated assertions, rumor and demagoguery.

      There is a proper forum and process to establish the validity of such a complaint. I believe everyone understands that. And if not, it might be proper to ask what damage has been done to humanity in the name of things that never happened?

      Is it your belief that this ministry is being used, as a surrogate for “pedophiles, human traffickers and rapists”? You are certainly entitled to that belief, as a private citizen but is it based on what you described as a weirdness or creepy feeling in our phone conversation? Or is there some substance in fact? If so, why not lay it out for all the world to see? And if not, then what is the rush to judgment?

      I recall clearly using these same words in defense of your candidacy for sheriff, against those who called you a communist, against those who said you were not a real Republican or a serious candidate. And my values and principles have not changed. If fairness is an issue, then let us all be fair. And if it is not, well, then that’s where evil triumphs.

      We’re all stuck on the same planet, and regardless of our differences, we secure peace through fairness, granted one to another. And I would remind you that our courts do not guarantee justice, they are simply an opportunity for justice. An opportunity that does not exist in the court of public opinion fueled by created perceptions.

      Perhaps the only opportunity presented here, is for us to dodge a bullet aimed by an agenda. Now, isn’t that what you wanted to talk about? You know my heart, and did you ever really expect me to take any other side than that of the underdog? If I did it for you, why wouldn’t I do it for them?

      And by the way, I’m still waiting for all of that “evidence” asserted by your opposition in the sheriff’s race. It seems, to me at least, that there may have been an ulterior motive behind those assertions. But I can only judge based on the lack of forthcoming evidence presented in a timely manner.

      But that’s just my opinion, my belief, and my conviction. What say you??

  4. January 25, 2016 at 7:37 am

    Scott/Anne – you wrote excellent responses to this person.

    It is soooo obvious that your answer IS correct and that as most always religion here is not being denied by atheists.

    What comes to mind this morning is this is a perfect example of how there is no changing peoples minds.

    Many of these same category of people become embolden with non action up in Oregon with religion words all around. Given credibility where there is none.

    It’s the law that’s what I want. Not in the strictest sense either but something just like I have to do and most everyone else as well.

    I wanted consideration with respect to da pot before it was legalized. That’s was the law too.

    However I don’t give a shit there massive differences between the two and not the same. Not even close.

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the effort of this blog Anne and for what little it’s worth have linked to you. Look forward to your posts.
    TB

    • Anne Landman
      January 25, 2016 at 9:32 am

      Thanks, TB

  5. Benita Phillips
    January 24, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    I believe and abide by the Constitution. I believe that the laws based and judged upon the Constitution and subsequent amendments is the framework for our laws…The Laws of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA.
    Atheism, Agnosticism, Holy Rollers, Witches, Judaism, any “religion” is guaranteed by the Constitution and its amendments. If we agree on that, then logic follows that laws built and agreed upon by Congress and re-defined by the Supreme Court, are as important to society’s stability as the Constitution itself, and that includes laws established at state and local levels.
    Having stated that I think I read confusion. Confusion based on assumptions. “Teacher” walks in on a group, being lead by a “unknown” male presence, with the “teacher” of the room present, probably not participating? This all sounds too nebulous to me. Why would the “walk in teacher” not take their colleague aside in a professional manner to find out the full story? By “observing” and hearing something that may have sounded like religious dogma, we are left with a passive-aggressive decision.
    There is nothing obvious here. The law requires particular professional behaviors by teachers and any person that has access to students. The administration is absolutely responsible for the safety of students and the interactions therein. The Principle is at a level of professional liability. The law requires it …no demands it. Unless you do not believe in all the words of the Constitution, then of course this kind of so-called “extracurricular” needs to be investigated.
    There is no “denying” of anyone’s dogmatic religious beliefs in the request that the incident be investigated and made clear as to its legitimacy in a public institution, payed for by the public’s taxes, during a public school day. Kids under a particular age, cannot participate even in “field trips” during the a public school day without written parental agreement. There is nothing “obvious” as to why these kids were there, what they were discussing, who they were with, why they were not resting and eating lunch to get ready for the afternoon classes, when the group met, started and finished, and how the interaction was professional.
    Till we know more, we should be demanding, for the safety of these kids, a full investigation and full transparent report.

  6. Bill Sanders
    January 24, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    I’ve been called to witness in a court of law. I have been asked to place my hand on the bible and swear to God to tell the truth…I am an atheist; how do I respond? I’ve been told to stand up in the classroom and recite the pledge of allegiance. I decide to exercise my first amendment freedom and respond, F**k Y**! How does my teacher respond? I am Marine Corps veteran.

  7. American Patriot
    January 24, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    “How do you get to throw and push your belief or non belief on who ever but it can’t be the other way around? “

    Is atheism a belief, or a disbelief? And aren’t they one in the same, in that neither the belief nor the disbelief can be proven? It would be foolish indeed to try to force one’s belief or disbelief upon another. And that’s what is happening here.

    But there’s something more. There’s mistrust, suspicion, fear and of course anger. And there is offense, real and imagined. I’m just an old man, but it sounds like to me there are too many people who have too much and too much time on their hands. When the world that we live in is an inherently dangerous place, and it’s hard enough on the kids and the old people, on the disabled and the poor, why wouldn’t we want to make things better for everybody?

    And boys and girls, ye shall know them by their deeds. And that’s my belief.

    • Scott
      January 24, 2016 at 9:45 pm

      Who says you can’t disprove the existence of a god? Of course you can. What you can’t disprove is the generic concept of gods. Sure, somewhere in the universe there might be something that we would consider to be a god. But we aren’t talking about some generic concept, we’re talking about specific gods who are described as having specific characteristics. Those can be examined and disproven.

      Is it forcing someone’s disbelief to expect a teacher to obey the law? All the local atheists are trying to do is keep the local Christians (primarily) from doing things they don’t have the right to do. That’s not pushing their beliefs or lack thereof) on the unwilling. It’s being a good citizen.

    • Anne Landman
      January 24, 2016 at 9:46 pm

      How is asking people to obey the law pushing anything but the law on people?

      • American Patriot
        January 25, 2016 at 8:15 am

        The greatest trick evil ever played on humanity was convincing the world that evil doesn’t exist. The “free exercise thereof” means exactly that. With Islamo terrorists beheading, burning and drowning people in cages, killing people all over the world, you choose to apply your efforts of prosecution and persecution against a small group of Christians seeking to peacefully assemble.

        Whom does your belief serve? The enemy of your enemy? Is there secular in Sharia Law? Perhaps thou doest protest too much the engine that has raised you to your unjust dominion, and sown the seeds of your own destruction? Evil begets evil. And we shall know them by their deeds. Believe as you will; for as long as you can.

        • Anne Landman
          January 25, 2016 at 9:42 am

          I would venture to say that fundamentalists of many religions, including Christianity, have caused similar terror across the world throughout history. It isn’t the religion that’s the problem, it’s how people interpret it and what they do in it’s name.

          Christians are not prosecuted, unless you believe owning buildings free of property tax, getting tax-free income and free promotion of your religion in taxpayer-funded public venues is persecution.

          To answer to your question, “Whom does your belief serve?,” we want public schools to obey the laws of this country, and if they would, it would serve all U.S. citizens equally well. It doesn’t seem too much to ask.

          • American Patriot
            January 25, 2016 at 10:43 am

            Tell me Anne, what is an atheist interpretation of “unalienable rights” of man “endowed by their creator”?

            And are those rights subject to a supremacy clause?

            Is it freedom OF religion or freedom FROM religion? Which is the enabler? Is the pursuit of happiness an individual right, in a country whose laws dictate that corporations are (in law) people?

            If you believe that you have a legitimate complaint of a violation of tax law, or the establishment clause, then you are entitled to due process, and equal protection. That is your unalienable right. Just don’t forget it’s genesis.

          • Anne Landman
            January 25, 2016 at 11:42 am

            Unalienable rights are human rights, and my creators were my mom and dad.

          • American Patriot
            January 25, 2016 at 12:44 pm

            Anne,
            And will your Mom and Dad guarantee my unalienable rights? Will a government large enough to giveth, also be large enough to taketh away? To alter or to abolish? Are not slaves made in such ways?

            The empowerment of the creator is that no government may lay claim to the rights of man, nor should they be justified by statute, or by consent of the governed. And that no law shall supersede God’s law. And believe it or not, it’s all we’ve got. And it is the foundation of all we ever will have. Let us all hope and pray that it will be enough to secure liberty for your Mom and Dad’s posterity. You hope and I’ll pray…….HARD.

  8. Rob Fiedler
    January 24, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    If it was unclear about teacher’s involvement seems to me it would be obvious and the ethical course of action to ascertain the teacher’s role before getting your knickers in bunch.

    • Anne Landman
      January 24, 2016 at 8:49 pm

      Gotta get it out in the open to find what was going on, Rob. But the federal guidance on this type of situation is clear:

      “When acting in their official capacities as representatives of the state, teachers, school administrators and other school employees are prohibited by the Establishment Clause from encouraging or discouraging prayer, and from actively participating in such activity with students. Teachers may, however, take part in religious activities where the overall context makes clear that they are not participating in their official capacities. Before school or during lunch, for example, teachers may meet with other teachers for prayer or Bible study to the same extent that they may engage in other conversation or nonreligious activities.”

  9. Anne Landman
    January 24, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Thanks for reading the blog, Dru. It’s always great to have another reader, and your comments are always welcome, whatever they are. I don’t mind your criticism, because the other side of the First Amendment is freedom of speech, which is an equally important concept as separation of church and state. Both are key to making the U.S. a wonderful and unique country to live in, and they are what sets this country apart from many others around the world. Comments are comments, but what is really important is whether western Colorado public school systems are abiding by the law when it comes to separation of church and state. It is important to keep public school students free of religious pressure, coercion and indoctrination in the places where they go to learn every day. And if religious coercion is happening and kids are suffering from it, whether it is from bullying by their teachers or fellow students, there’s certainly no down side to exposing it. Thanks again for writing.

  10. Dru
    January 24, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    You are a joke. I like how the atheist cry or whine when something affiliated with religion “offends” them. It makes me shake my head at the atheist approach to everything religion….how it’s not right to push religious beliefs and yet these atheists can throw their atheism everywhere and anywhere they want. How does that work? How do you get to throw and push your belief or non belief on who ever but it can’t be the other way around? An actual honest to god answer…pun intended just cause I can… I started following your blog of nonsense after the bibles in the library here in delta story….since then I’ve learned that you are no different than the people that push religion on others. You are just like every other person out there who wants to push their beliefs on someone else. Shame shame.

    • Scott
      January 24, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      The difference that you’re missing is that what atheists like Anne complain (rightly) about is government-sanctioned religious activities. Do you think the average Christian is going to complain about a government-endorsed Christian service in a school? Probably not, even though its illegal. No one is pushing atheism on anyone. They’re simply pointing out instances where Christians are breaking the law. Would you have the same reaction if the teacher had walked in on an Islamic prayer meeting?

      • Dru
        January 24, 2016 at 9:23 pm

        Religious preference doesn’t matter whether it’s Christian, Catholic, or Islam. Atheist search for any thing to cry about. They don’t push atheism on anyone but yet they want everything changed to appease them…. Just like the idiot that wants the In God We Trust off of money…but he’s not trying to push any belief on anyone is he. With laws aside…I asked a question about how it’s ok for this but not for that. Religions and atheist push their garbage one way or another. Plain and simple. Human nature. My question wasn’t answered because no one has a valid answer yet…

        • Scott
          January 24, 2016 at 9:26 pm

          They don’t want everything changed. They just want the activities that are illegal to stop. Your question was answered, you just don’t like the answer.

          • Dru
            January 24, 2016 at 9:29 pm

            Lol how was it answered? How is In God We Trust on the money illegal? Or does that person not count as an atheist? You avoid answering the question because there is no valid answer.

          • Scott
            January 24, 2016 at 9:34 pm

            I didn’t say it was illegal. You are assuming all atheists think the same thing. That is not the case, nor are they trying to get everything changed to appease them.

        • Anne Landman
          January 24, 2016 at 9:45 pm

          We want schools to obey the law. How is that pushing anything but the law on people? Is it you preference that schools break the law?

          • Dru
            January 24, 2016 at 9:54 pm

            From what I’ve read there were no laws broken. No one knows if that teacher was involved or not. You jump to the assumption that they were. You guys mock religions almost every chance you get. Winter So lice is the real reason for the season. Seems like a nice little stab at religion imo. But it’s my opinion…we all have one. My question has yet to be answered…

            P.S. Don’t take my comments personal. I give the JehoVA Witnesses a hard time too. I have questions that they can’t answer either. I like to debate.

          • Scott
            January 24, 2016 at 9:57 pm

            No, we don’t know if a teacher was involved. But if there was, then there were laws broken. Should we just ignore the situation completely? What do you think should be done.

            And what exactly was your question. The only one I saw was answered. What is it that hasn’t been answered?

          • Dru
            January 24, 2016 at 10:15 pm

            Obviously there was no harm in what they were doing. Obviously the kids that were in that class room were there on there own accord. It’s hard to believe that some kids might actually have made their own decision in religious views. Some students were having bible study in a classroom and everything goes to hell because a teacher was in there also. The other teacher said what? That it was undetermined if the young man speaking was a student or a teacher. How does that teacher not know? Why is no one questioning that? Did the teacher that walked in on this intervene because some law was being broke? A lot of holes in this story… but no hesitation to put that teacher on blast. I’m sure anyone that goes to that school or works there knows exactly who this teacher is if they read this. With laws aside.. how is right that you can deny people their beliefs but ok for atheism to have theirs. No one denied the mock on people’s religions. You didn’t deny my remark about the little stab with the new bilboard there. That guy was right. People have too much time on their hands including myself. I’m currently dealing with a bullying issue with my son and him telling the teacher about the bully. His reply was “well that’s how life works”. The bullying issue is far greater than some bibles and bible study..

          • Scott
            January 24, 2016 at 10:21 pm

            So its OK to break the law (if that’s what happened) if no one was being harmed? Is that really what you’re saying?

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