Sunday, May 18, 2014

Fla. Teacher Bans Bible in Free Time, Parents Sue

Swornia Thomas, a fifth-grade teacher at Park Lakes Elementary in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, told Giovanni Rubeo he was forbidden to read his Bible in her classroom at any time, and then called his parents, who challenged the ban. Subsequently, the Broward County Public Schools confirmed that students can read the Bible during free time.  However, a religious liberty attorney says the school must also allow Bible reading as a student's choice during the Accelerated Reader® program as well.
"I was pretty embarrassed, but not as embarrassed as the first couple times it happened."
-- Giovanni Rubeo, 12-year-old student
UPDATE 1/7/15: Teacher Bans Free Time Bible Reading in Missouri

For background, click headlines to read previous articles:

Texas Teacher Confiscates Bible from Second-grader

Florida Kindergartner Forbidden to Bow Head Over Lunch

First-grade Christian Censored, Pennsylvania School Sued

God is NOT Your Idol, Says Tennessee Teacher; Michael Jackson Is

Christian Girl Muzzled, Sues Kansas City School

Georgia Christian Teachers Muzzled, Citizens Rebel

Oklahoma School Assures Atheists: No Praying Coaches Here

Also read the long list of states enacting laws to restore religious liberty to schools.

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-- From "Student told not to read Bible in class continues fight" posted at WSVN-TV7 (Fort Lauderdale, FL) 5/14/14

The district released a statement which read: "Broward County Public Schools respects and upholds the rights of students to bring personal religious materiel to school including the Bible and to read these items before school, after school or during any free reading time during the school day. This information has been communicated to the parents of the student involved in this situation."

[Liberty Institute attorney Jeremy]  Dys said not only should Rubeo be allowed to read his Bible in free reading time, but he should also be allowed to read it during accelerated reading, when students are required to read from an approved list materials then take quizzes. The Bible and other religious material are on the list. "The school district has said during Accelerated Reader® program you can't read the Bible," said Dys. "Well, that's false. Looking though the list, you can read the Bible during the Accelerated Reader® program and get credit for doing so."

His father, Paul Rubeo, just wants to protect his son. "Any parent wants to protect their child, and there comes a point in life where you have to stand up for what's right and what's wrong," said Paul.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Broward schools chief apologizes for Bible incident" by Scott Travis, Sun Sentinel 5/6/14

Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie apologized Tuesday for an incident in which a 12-year-old was told he couldn't read the Bible.

He said his administration has reached out to the faculty at the school to ensure they are familiar with district policies and state and federal laws.

"From the Supreme Court to the federal Department of Education, the laws are clear respecting the rights of our students to be able to bring religious materials to school and to have access to those materials during free reading time, lunch and non-instructional time," he said.

Runcie called it "an insolated incident."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Broward schools’ Runcie says Bible controversy ‘should’ve been handled differently’" by Michael Vasquez, Miami Herald 5/6/14

The family of 12-year-old Giovanni Rubeo says their child wasn’t allowed to read his Bible during “free reading” class periods that gave students the option of reading any book they wished. The Broward school district disputes this version of events, and says the boy wasn’t allowed to read the Bible because there was an “accelerated reading” program taking place.

A voicemail left by Giovanni’s teacher last month further fueled the controversy. A recording of the message, which was left for Giovanni’s father, includes the teacher stating “I noticed that he has a book — a religious book — in the classroom. He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.”

Rubeo’s family is being represented by the Texas-based Liberty Institute, a conservative legal group that has launched similar battles against schools across the country. . . . in a letter e-mailed to the school district on Tuesday, Liberty Institute director of litigation Hiram Sasser demanded assurances that Giovanni be allowed to read his Bible during “accelerated reading program” class periods as well.

“If we do not receive a satisfactory response, we will proceed with the appropriate legal steps up to and including litigation,” Sasser wrote.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Florida County Urged to Recognize Bible as Part of School Reading Program" by Katherine Weber, Christian Post Reporter 5/16/14

After researching the Accelerated Reader Program, the Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal group defending Giovanni and his family, discovered that the program does in fact permit the reading of 60 of the 66 books of the Bible.

The legal group then sent a letter to the school district this week, arguing that Giovanni should be allowed to read his Bible during free reading time and during the Accelerated Reader Program.

According to a press release issued by Liberty Institute, the Bible is one of 1,000 books permitted through the Accelerated Reader Program. "Broward County Public Schools justified censoring the Bible because they thought it was not part of the Accelerated Reader® Program, but, in fact, the Bible and other religious books about the Jewish, Buddhist and other faiths are included," Jeremiah Dys, Liberty Institute's senior counsel, said in a press release announcing the letter.

"It is unlawful viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment for the school district to selectively censor religious books from the large list of books available to students in the Accelerated Reader® Program."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

Also read (click headlines below):

New Hampshire School Teaches Porn, Complaining Dad Arrested

Man Dressed as Woman Teacher OKd for Texas Elementary School

Alabama School Doesn't Back Gay Agenda, Obama Administration Investigates

In addition, read American Decline: President Obama's Gay Agenda vs. Christians

UPDATE 5/20/14: "Broward School District Lifts Ban on Bible Reading During Free Time" by Chris Joseph, New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Broward County Public Schools has sent a letter to the Liberty Institute, ensuring it that students are permitted to read their Bibles in school as a part of free-reading time and during the Accelerated Reader Program.

Whatever anyone's thoughts and feelings on religion on school grounds might be, this was clearly a violation of Rubeo's rights. And the Pulp suggested that, perhaps, the Broward School Board should just offer the kid and his family a mea culpa.

And it did.

And on Tuesday, Liberty Institute received a letter from the School Board saying, in part, that the state does not ban the Bible in public schools and that teachers and staff across Broward would be notified of this.

To read the entire opinion column above, CLICK HERE.