The superintendent of a California school district told TheBlaze that he is "concerned" and has commissioned a "speedy investigation" after claims that an elementary school sent a cop to a 7-year-old's home to try and ban him from handing out Bible verses.
"I am very concerned about this incident," Raul Maldonado, superintendent of Palmdale School District in Palmdale, California, told TheBlaze in a statement. "I have directed that a speedy investigation be conducted, and I can assure you that all appropriate action will be taken once the facts are known."
The purported incident unfolded at Desert Rose Elementary School, with the Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal firm, demanding that the school "correct an outrageous violation" of the "first grader's constitutional rights."
"The situation started with an encouraging note and Bible verse from mom Christina Zavala, tucked into a packed lunch for her little boy ('C')," reads a statement from the firm. "The seven-year-old boy read the note and verse, and showed them to his friends during lunch time at school."
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
According to Liberty Counsel, as time went on, other kids at lunch also started to look forward to the Bible verses, with Zavala providing copies of the scriptures in her son's lunchbox along with short Bible stories that offered up some context.
The law firm claims that the notes were banned after a teacher caught wind of the lunchtime distribution, with the Zavalas' unnamed son reportedly being told that the separation of church and state only allowed him to hand the verses out at the school gate after the bell rang.
After Zavala said that she tried to correct the school on the matter, the little boy was allegedly reprimanded again. At that point, the family purportedly agreed to abide by the mandate that the verses only be distributed at the gate, though the problems didn't end there.
"The Zavalas and C complied with the school gate directive, and soon, as many as 15 fellow students looked forward to the after-school Bible notes," the Liberty Counsel statement continues. "However, on May 9, 2016, Principal Melanie Pagliaro approached Mr. Zavala at that location, and demanded that C only hand out the notes on a public sidewalk, far from the exit, off school property. The family immediately complied."
But it's what happened next that has some critics riled up, as the family claims that a Los Angeles deputy sherif came to their home later that very day and demanded that the verses and Bible stories stop being distributed — a move that the Liberty Counsel called "outrageous."
In a letter dated May 24, the Liberty Counsel told Maldonado that the incident is an example of "unconstitutional suppression and censorship of student religious speech," and called on the district to take action to remedy it.
'"Separation of church and state' does not justify the district’s actions." the letter read, with Liberty Counsel pledging to "take further action" to protect the child's First Amendment liberties if officials do not respond to the inquiry.
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