First grader told to stop talking about Bible
Jan 14, 2014 4:18 PM EST
The parents of a six-year-old girl said their daughter was humiliated when a teacher interrupted the child's one-minute speech and told her to sit down because she's "not allowed to talk about the Bible in school," attorneys for the California family allege.
The incident occurred Dec. 19 inside a first grade classroom at Helen Hunt-Jackson Elementary School in Temecula, Calif. The previous day the teacher instructed boys and girls to find something at home that represented a family Christmas tradition. They were supposed to bring the item to school and share the item in a classroom presentation.
Brynn Williams decided to bring the Star of Bethlehem that adorned the top of her family's Christmas tree. She also worked on a one minute presentation to explain that her family's tradition is to remember the birth of Jesus at Christmas time.
"Our Christmas tradition is to put a star on top of our tree," the little girl said. "The star is named the Star of Bethlehem. The three kings followed the star to find baby Jesus, the Savior of the world."
Before the child could utter another word, the teacher intervened, according to Robert Tyler, the general counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom - the law firm representing the Williams family.
"Brynn's teacher said, 'Stop right there! Go take your seat,'" Tyler said. "Bryn was not allowed to finish her presentation by reciting the Bible verse, John 3:16."
Tyler said the little girl was the only student in the class not allowed to finish her presentation.
"After Brynn took her seat, the teacher explained to Brynn in front of all the other students that she was not allowed to talk about the Bible or share its verses," Tyler said.
Gina Williams learned about the incident after she picked her daughter up from school.
"She thought she had done something wrong," she told me. "She thought she was in trouble. I told her she was not in trouble and I was proud of her. I tried to comfort her on the way home."
The following day Williams met with the principal.
"The principal confirmed that Brynn's teacher did the appropriate thing by stopping her mid-presentation and there are specific education codes that protect the school," Williams said. "
The principal then asked Brynn, who had tears in her eyes, to come into her office and deliver the same presentation that was censored in the classroom. Afterwards, the principal stood by her decision.
"She confirmed there was no way Brynn could finish that presentation," the disappointed mom told me. It was to protect the other students from being offended by Brynn's presentation."
The principal reportedly told her that Brynn could write about her beliefs in a journal but she was not allowed to share her beliefs aloud to any other student.
Tyler sent a letter to the school district demanding they apologize to Brynn and change their policies limiting religious liberty.
"The disapproval and hostility that Christian students have come to experience in our nation's public schools has become epidemic," he said, warning that should the school district ignore their concerns, they will file a lawsuit.
The school district sent me the following statement:
"The Temecula Valley Unified School District respects all students' rights under the Constitution and takes very seriously any allegation of discrimination. Due to the fact that District officials are currently investigating the allegations, it would be inappropriate to provide further comment at this time."
It's not the first time the school district has found itself in hot water over religious liberty violations. Last October, a seventh grade student was publicly ridiculed by a teacher for reading the Bible. The classroom assignment had been to read a non-fiction book. The teacher told the student in front of the class that the Bible was fiction and refused to give him credit for the assignment.
Tyler said it's clear that the district violated Brynn's constitutional rights.
"Any act to suppress a student's free speech, in this case censorship of Brynn's presentation of her family traditions, has violated Brynn's constitutional rights unless the school district can reasonably conclude that Brynn's speech was going to materially and substantially disrupt the school's work or discipline," he wrote in a letter to the school district. "Here, the school district cannot reasonably come to that conclusion."
So here's the way I see it. The school district either:
- Made a gross mistake;
- Is ignorant of the Constitution;
- Is infested with radical secularists who like to bully Christian children:
- All of the above.
How would you feel if Brynn was your daughter?