After several children were caught talking about “Jesus” and “God,” a first-grade teacher decided to prohibit the words from being mentioned in the classroom. However, after parents received a letter stating that the words were “inappropriate,” they decided to take action.
When dealing with young children, McCordsville Elementary School implements strict rules in order to keep the classrooms in order. Of course, talking out of turn is one of the biggest issues educators have when it comes to a room full of first-graders.
So, when an elementary school teacher noticed that some of her students were having conversations she found “inappropriate,” she decided not only to contact their parents but also to make a new rule for her students. What she didn’t expect was that the parents would be even more upset than the children.
According to FOX59, parents of students who attend McCordsville Elementary School in Indiana received a letter from their first-graders’ teacher, telling them that they should tell their children not to use the words “God, Jesus, and Devil” in the classroom as it could upset other students. The teacher, who remains unnamed, wrote that discussing these topics was not “appropriate” at school and that church-going parents should warn their children to remain silent on the subject of religion.
“I have had a group of about 5 students using the words God, Jesus, and Devil in conversation. The first time I had a talk about it with them, unfortuantely on a different day the conversation came up again. With McCordsville Elementary being a public school, we have many different religions and beliefs, and I do not want to upset a child/parent because of these words being used. If you go to church or discuss these things at home, please have a talk with your child about there being an appropriate time and place of talking about it.”
However, Christian parents weren’t too happy that their children were being told to keep their beliefs quiet. Almost immediately, outraged parents contacted the school and complained, warning that the teacher was infringing upon their children’s rights to freedom of religion and speech.
Fearing a major civil rights lawsuit, district officials quickly responded to parents, confirming that they do not approve of the teacher’s mandate and that it goes against school policy. Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins assured parents that their children’s rights will be protected.
“To simply summarize, MVCSC employees can neither advance nor inhibit religious views. Trying to limit a student’s view on religion is a violation of a student’s first amendment rights. However, if the discussion becomes an academic disruption, then as a district, we can intervene to maintain the integrity of the educational process while at the same time being sure to not violate a student’s constitutional rights.”
Dr. Robbins reiterates that the students are allowed to discuss religious topics so long as it doesn’t become “an academic disruption.” However, parents are still concerned as to what the vague reference means and who determines when it becomes disruptive.
The district has called the incident a “learning process for a young teacher,” but they have not confirmed whether she has been disciplined, The Christian Post reports. According to school officials, she is only in her second years of teaching and is still getting used to district and board policies. Understandably, parents are still on edge over her attempt to stifle their children’s freedom of speech and thought.
WISH confirmed that certain parents were upset over the letter and were concerned with how the teacher was handling such matters in the classroom.
“I just couldn’t even believe that I was receiving something like this and reading something of this nature for first-graders,” said one parent who didn’t want to be identified. “Maybe the five students she was having those problems, maybe sit them down and have their parents come in and just let them know you can’t be disrupting class, if they were disrupting class.”
In an effort to protect the children’s rights, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has responded regarding the matter. The organization made it clear that all students have an inalienable right to speak about religion in the classroom without fear of being punished by school officials.
“Students have the right to share their beliefs, pray, evangelize, read Scripture, and invite students to participate in such activities during free time so long as they do not (1) substantially interfere with the operation of the school or (2) infringe on the rights of other students,” ADF argued. “The right to expression also extends to the clothes students wear. Students may thus wear religious clothing to the extent that other like articles of dress are permitted. A school may not prohibit student expression solely because others might find it ‘offensive.'”
As far as the teacher is concerned, the district has remained relatively silent. Hopefully, she has been trained on her rights as a teacher and those of her students so that she doesn’t attempt to infringe upon them again.