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Teacher accepts student's assignment about Michael Jackson, but not the one about God

Published: Monday, Sept. 16 2013 3:00 p.m. MDT

Last week, 10-year-old Erin Shead's teacher told her she could not write about God for an in-class assignment.

Screenshot from wreg.com

When a 10-year-old-girl from Memphis, Tenn., wrote about God as her idol for an in-class assignment last week, her teacher told her that topic was not acceptable, according to wreg.com.

“I look up to God,” Erin Shead wrote on her paper. “He will make me the best that I can be ... He will always be the #1 person I look up to.”

Erin’s mother, Erica Shead, was concerned about the teacher’s response.

“How can you tell this baby, that’s a Christian, what she can say and what she can’t say?” Shead said in an interview with News Channel 3 in Memphis.

According to the Christian Post, the teacher had Erin chose a different idol to write about, so she made a web diagram about Michael Jackson instead, which the teacher accepted.

Shead contacted the school principal about the incident.

“Can you show me this in a policy where this child cannot talk about God on paper?” Shead said in her interview. “I told the principal this morning, 'Would it be better if she wrote about Ellen DeGeneres?' Of course there was no comment.”

According to WREG, Shelby County Schools spokesman Christian Ross said teachers are not allowed to promote religion, but there is no policy that prohibits students from writing assignments about God or religion.

On Sept. 12, the school system released an official response about the event.

“Shelby County Schools respects the moral and religious beliefs of all students and families. While teachers and staff are not permitted to promote religion in the classroom, no laws or district policies allow teachers to limit students’ expression of religious beliefs in their personal classwork.

"This was a regrettable misunderstanding, and we as educators must learn from it," the statement continued. "The principal and teacher have had a positive and productive conversation with the family, and we are pleased this matter is being addressed at the school level. The district will not be discussing this matter further in the media.”

Abby Stevens is a writer for the DeseretNews.com Faith and Family sections. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University–Idaho. Contact Abby at astevens@deseretdigital.com.

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