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On December 19, 2013, First grader Brynn Williams was unable to finish her presentation about what the Star of Bethlehem meant to her family at Christmas-time. Whether due to Brynn’s teacher halting her one-minute report, where she shared the meaning of the star and the birth of Jesus, or if the class ran out of time is still under investigation by the TVUSD.
According to a news report by NBC4, Brynn’s father, Shane, said he didn’t think his daughter bringing the star to school would be an issue.
Her father stated in a recent interview that the teacher told Brynn not to talk about the Bible or read its verses in class. Shane stated that after his daughter was told to stop her presentation, that “(Brynn) felt that she had done something wrong and she was going to be punished.”
NBC4 reports that Brynn’s parents are not seeking to file a law suit against the school district, however Murrieta based lawyers for the Advocates for Faith & Freedom, is actively involved in the discussion. Attorney Robert Tyler stated in the report, “I hope that (the school district ) will take the lead role in adopting a model policy to prohibit this abuse that has become all too common place for religious-minded students.” Whether rights infringed, or this a case founded on misunderstanding will continue to be investigated. The current policy regarding student expression of religion in the classroom states:
Students may express their beliefs about religion in their homework, artwork, and other classwork if the expression is germane to the assignment. Such work shall be judged by ordinary academic standards, free of discrimination based on religious content. (Full policy below).
When asked about the incident, TVUSD was unable to comment, as the incident is currently under investigation.
Melanie Norton, TVUSD Public Information Officer, did have this to say, “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. (The following is a) statement we’ve released as well as out Board Policy regarding religious beliefs and customs.”
TVUSD’s Board Policy on the Recognition of Religions Beliefs and Customs: BP 6141.2 (a)
The Governing Board recognizes that students’ education would be incomplete without an
understanding of the role of religion in history. As appropriate for a particular course, teachers may
objectively discuss the influences of various religions, using religious works and symbols to
illustrate their relationship with society, literature or the arts. The Board expects that such instruction
will identify principles common to all religions and foster respect for the diversity of religions
and customs in the world.
In order to respect each student’s individual right to freedom of religious practice, religious indoctrination
is clearly forbidden in the public schools. Instruction about religion must not favor, promote
or demean the beliefs or customs of any particular religion or sect nor show a preference for one
religious view over another. Staff shall be highly sensitive to their obligation not to interfere with the
religious development of any student in whatever tradition the student embraces.
As part of their official duties, staff shall not endorse, encourage or solicit religious or anti-religious
expression or activities among students during class time. They shall not lead students in prayer or
other religious activities. However, staff shall not prohibit or discourage any student from praying or
otherwise expressing his/her religious belief as long as this does not disrupt the classroom.
Students may express their beliefs about religion in their homework, artwork and other classwork
if the expression is germane to the assignment. Such work shall be judged by ordinary academic
standards, free of discrimination based on religious content.
This is a developing story, and more information will be released as it arises.
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