Broward School District Lifts Ban on Bible Reading During Free Time
George Bannister via Flickr Creative Commons
Broward County Public Schools has sent a letter to the Liberty Institute, ensuring it that students are permitted to read their Bibles in school as a part of free-reading time and during the Accelerated Reader Program.
Just a couple of weeks ago, we brought you the tale of Giovanni Rubeo, a fifth-grade Park Lakes Elementary student who was told by a teacher that he was prohibited from reading his Bible in school.
Whatever anyone's thoughts and feelings on religion on school grounds might be, this was clearly a violation of Rubeo's rights. And the Pulp suggested that, perhaps, the Broward School Board should just offer the kid and his family a mea culpa.
And it did.
Liberty Institute, a Dallas-based legal group that advocates for religious freedom, was made aware of the incident by Rubeo's father. The group agreed to take on the case, citing it as a violation of federal and state law.
Liberty Institute was able to obtain a recording of a voicemail message left for Rubeo's father, telling him that his son was not allowed to read his Bible in class.
Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Liberty Institute, told New Times at the time that the group was simply looking for an apology and for the district to allow students to read their Bibles during free time.
"It's a clear violation of the law," he said. "They should just apologize and say they were wrong and movie on. That would be fine for us."
A day after the news broke, the Broward County School District issued a statement, saying, "Broward County Public Schools respects and upholds the rights of students to bring personal religious materials to school, including the Bible, and to read these items before school, after school or during any "free reading" time during the school day. This information has been communicated to the parents of the student involved in this situation."
And on Tuesday, Liberty Institute received a letter from the School Board saying, in part, that the state does not ban the Bible in public schools and that teachers and staff across Broward would be notified of this.
After receiving the letter, Jeremiah Dys, Liberty Institute senior counsel, released a statement:
"Now the Broward County Public Schools says it will allow the Bible as part of the Accelerated Reader Program. We are pleased that 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. 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."
You can read the letter from the school district to Liberty Institute below:
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.