A boy’s claim that his teacher banned him from reading the Bible during class led to a face-off between his family and a school district in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, earlier this month. That debate is now winding down after officials assured the child’s attorney that Bibles are, indeed, allowed during free reading times.
“Now the Broward County Public Schools says it will allow the Bible as part of the Accelerated Reader Program,” Jeremiah Dys, senior counsel at the conservative Liberty Institute, said in a statement.
He continued, “We are pleased they are now complying with the law and will allow students to read their Bible during free reading time and within the Accelerated Reader program.”
Previously, the district reportedly argued that the student, 12-year-old Giovanni Rubeo, was not reading his Bible during free time and that the incident possibly took place during the Accelerated Reader program. But this, too, became a problem when the Liberty Institute noted that 60 of the Bible’s 66 books are allowed for consumption during this time as well.
A letter from an attorney for Broward County Public Schools dated May 18, 2014, proclaims that the district “does not ban the Bible” and that there has never been a policy precluding children from reading it.
“With regard to the Accelerated Reader program (AR), if a book is on the AR list (including books of the Bible), a student is free to read such book during AR reading time,” Marylin Batista-McNamara, an attorney for the district, wrote in the letter addressed to the Liberty Institute.
As TheBlaze previously reported, Paul Rubeo, Giovanni’s father, said earlier this month that debate broke out after his son had been asked by his teacher to stop reading his Bible during a free reading period on April 8 at Park Lakes Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“She said we’re going to have 90 minutes of free reading time. In my head I’m like, ‘Yes, I get to read my Bible,” Giovanni told TheBlaze. “She asked me, ‘What book is that?’ I was a little nervous and scared and she said to put it on the desk. She didn’t ask me — she told me put it on my desk.”
Giovanni said he refused to comply and the teacher reportedly called him “defiant,” then told him to dial his father’s phone number, which he did. And that’s when the teacher, who identified herself as Mrs. S. Thomas, subsequently left a voice mail for Paul Rubeo.
“I noticed that he has a book — a religious book — in the classroom,” she can be heard on a recording released by the family. “He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.”
Dys and the school district went back and forth over whether the incident took place during a free reading period — a time during which students are free to select the books of their choice — or whether it was during the district’s Accelerated Reader program.
Either way, the district has now said that there needs to be more flexibility.
“We do not know if the teacher is in trouble with the school district, but we will continue to monitor this school system carefully to ensure that their actions toward student religious liberty continue match their words,” Dys continued in his statement.
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