Allowing religious clubs on campus could help prevent tragedies like last year's fatal shooting at Pearl High School, a local school leader says.

"When you take religion out of the schools, other things take its place. It gives a signal that religion is not important," district Superintendent Bill Dodson said Monday at a state-sponsored school safety conference.In October 1997, Pearl High student Luke Woodham gunned down two students and wounded seven others. He is serving two life prison terms, plus 20 years for each count of assault.

He received another life sentence for killing his mother, Mary Ann Woodham, who was stabbed to death hours before the school shootings.

During his trial, Woodham claimed he and other students were part of a cultlike group called Kroth and that Grant Boyette, 19, the alleged leader of the group, worshipped demons and controlled Woodham's thoughts.

In his speech to 200 educators, Dodson said that without religious clubs at school, cults can replace religion. He didn't mention school prayer, but alluded to U.S. Supreme Court decisions that curtail that practice.