The state's refusal to pay for the Washington School District's defense of its school prayer policy has left the district with a legal tab estimated at $12,000.

St. George attorney John Palmer, who represented the district in a short-lived suit over banning of graduation prayers, said the state's decision was unexpected.The district believed that the bill would be paid by the state Risk Management Fund because risk management officials had indicated to various districts that certain legal actions in the defense of school prayer might not be eligible for reimbursement.

"We had just assumed that the opposite would be true," Palmer said Wednesday. "I don't know that we had a right to assume it, but we did."

He added that the district's decision to ban graduation prayers was partly based on advice from state officials.

The suit against the Washington District was dropped last month after the school board agreed to re-examine the issue each spring.