A Fairfax County teacher who was suspended last month after she was accused of teaching religion says she conducted prayer sessions in which she anointed students with oil, but that she did not violate school policy because the meetings were held after classes ended for the day.

Carol Gratchen, 37, who was suspended with pay from her job as a seventh-grade teacher at Lanier Intermediate School, has refused to talk with reporters, but expressed her views in a newsletter published Saturday by the Fellowship of Christian Educators, a small group based in Falls Church.

Her explanation was immediately challenged by School Superintendent Robert R. Spillane, who said an investigator's report that he received yesterday made it "quite clear that she violated school policy and she violated any reasonably prudent adult's impression of what's responsible in a school."

"Parents do not send their children to public school to be proselytized about any religion," said Spillane.

The county school system policy requires teachers to be neutral with respect to religion, neither advocating nor criticizing it. It says teachers may teach about religion, but may not teach religion.

Gratchen was interviewed by school officials last month and is awaiting a final ruling on whether she may keep her job.

Gratchen held regular Thursday afternoon prayer sessions with 12 to 14 students who came to her and asked for "prayer ministry," according to the newsletter, which gave the following account.

"It is Miss Gratchen's custom to anoint with oil the head of those she prayed for and to lay her hands upon those she prayed for." The sessions were held after classes let out, but during Gratchen's "contract time," the hour in which teachers are paid to stay in the building after school.

After a parent complained, Gratchen twice was ordered by her principal in March not to discuss her religious views with her students during contract hours.

Gratchen said school system policy gives her the right to talk about religion after class hours but during contract hours; school system officials say otherwise. Gratchen said she encouraged students "to share Jesus Christ with their parents," but "since she perceived a very real threat to her teaching career, she asked the kids not to tell anyone that it was her that was encouraging them to be witnesses for Christ."

Gratchen said she did not object when a student "in an effort to protect Miss Gratchen, positioned his seat near the door in an attempt to guard it . . . . This way she could continue to do the Lord's work while minimizing the very real risk to her teaching career."

One mother who complained about Gratchen to school officials said yesterday that Gratchen's account agreed with what her daughter had told her, but, "It wasn't just, 'Jesus is wonderful.' It got rather bizarre." Gratchen told her daughter that the daughter's brother, who drowned at age 13, had not been saved and therefore would go to Hell, the mother said.

Her daughter "didn't know what she was getting into" when she walked into Gratchen's room after school, the mother said. "She thought it would be a personal-type discussion of a boy problem . . . . She {Gratchen} was preying on impressionable young minds without their parents' consent."

The woman did not wish to be identified, saying her daughter has been harassed.

Gratchen was one of about 100 county teachers who received a low performance rating from her principal, meaning that her pay will be frozen if she is allowed to return to work. That evaluation "appears to be a clear case of religious persecution," the Fellowship of Christian Educators newsletter said.