Broward Schools Chief Apologizes to Student Who Was Told He Couldn't Read His Bible at School
George Bannister via Flickr Creative Commons
On Tuesday, 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 sack up and offer the kid and his family a mea culpa.
And it did. On Tuesday afternoon, Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie apologized to Rubeo for the brouhaha.
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"First, let me apologize to the student and his family," Runcie said per the Sun Sentinel. "This was a situation that should have been handled differently. It does not represent the values of our school system. Let me be clear. Broward County Public Schools respects and upholds the right to bring personal religious material to school, including the Bible."
Rubeo's teacher gave the student's father a call to let him know that reading the Bible was prohibited -- even though Rubeo was reading his Bible during free time.
The incident was brought up by a Dallas-based legal group called the Liberty Institute that advocates for religious freedom.
The group had a recording of a voicemail message left for Rubeo's father, telling him that his son is not allowed to read his Bible in class.
The Liberty Institute also said it had a copy of a letter written on April 16 to Rubeo's family from the school saying that the student could read his Bible, as long as it was during free time.
"As stated in our telephone conversation... your child is permitted to read the Bible, before school, after school, and during lunch, in accordance to the law," Principal Orinthia Dias' letter said.
The group demanded an apology and said the teacher's actions violated Rubeo's First Amendment rights.
Some of our readers agreed that the teacher was way off base:
Superintendent Runcie said that his administration had briefed the Park Lakes faculty on district policies and state federal laws following the incident. Runcie also instructed school principals to make sure they address the issue with their teachers, to avoid this kind of incident again.
The School Board sent out robocalls to parents about the incident.
"From the Supreme Court to the federal Department of Education, the laws are clear respecting the rights of our students to be able to bring religious materials to school and to have access to those materials during free reading time, lunch, and noninstructional time," the robocall said.
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