Erica Shead, the mother of 10-year-old Erin, has revealed the reason her daughter was told she couldn’t write about God for a school assignment: Her teacher wasn’t sure how to handle the church versus state dynamics that exist in public schools and so acted on impulse.
As TheBlaze previously reported, Erin and her classmates were asked to choose one idol and then draw and write them. Erin selected God and made the assignment about her faith, but the teacher said she needed to make a different selection (she ended up choosing Michael Jackson, which was permitted).
Now, Shead says the decision — one that sparked a plethora of debate this week — was rooted in the teacher’s nervousness and confusion surrounding the issue. During a meeting after the incident, the principal and teacher at Lucy Elementary School in Memphis, Tenn., reportedly apologized to the mother and daughter for the debacle.
“The children started talking and some didn’t believe in God and some did and they were talking about it,” Shead told WREG-TV. “[The teacher] did admit that she didn’t know how to handle that situation.”
Shead said speaking about the incident had nothing to do with a desire for media attention, but to ensure that her daughter’s right to free speech was protected. When she first went to media about the assignment, Shead was candid.
“It was so cute and innocent. She talked about how God created the earth and how she’s doing the best she can,” Shead told WREG-TV. “How can you tell this baby, that’s a Christian, what she can say and what she can’t say?”
The Shelby County School District put out a statement afterward saying that students’ religious views are protected and clarifying some of the complicated issues surrounding policies governing the separation of church and state.
“Shelby County Schools respects the moral and religious beliefs of all students and families. While teachers and staff are not permitted to promote religion in the classroom, no laws or district policies allow teachers to limit students’ expression of religious beliefs in their personal classwork,” the district said. “This was a regrettable misunderstanding, and we as educators must learn from it. The principal and teacher have had a positive and productive conversation with the family, and we are pleased this matter is being addressed at the school level.”
The district said it does not plan to speak further with media about the incident.