Florida teacher tells 12-year-old he can't read his Bible during free reading time

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  • K Mchenry, IL
    May 18, 2014 4:06 a.m.

    Did the child already do the book for AR credit? The bible is a book that is read and reread. Reading time is spent on new books reports can later be written on or tests can later be taken from. Was the child reading the book aloud?

    I would probably be mad as a parent. But this is not religious persecution. Religious persecution is being executed because your father was Muslim and you were raised Christian. Religious persecution is being lashed for marrying a Christian. Religious persecution is being kidnapped and forced to convert to another faith. Which conversion should not hold water with the leadership of that faith. We squabble. Then we resolve. I say to the family turn the other cheek. Why are demanding any action and simply forgive. Have the parents read the bible? I would say if any other scripture were read more parents in the class would demand to know why it's allowed? Something to think about. Although it's probably the lawyers keeping this in the limelight after the correction. Perhaps the boy should lend his copy of the bible to the lawyers?

  • A Guy With A Brain Enid, OK
    May 17, 2014 5:47 p.m.

    @ lonepeakstudent - Alpine, UT - "An isolated case does not religious persecution make."

    You think this is an "isolated" incident? Really?

    All you have to do is look around....

  • The Wraith Kaysville, UT
    May 17, 2014 4:59 p.m.

    To address a different point now:
    @Reasonable Man

    Adding to Frozen Fractals post about scientific theories you should know that the idea that germs, bacteria, and viruses cause illness is, like evolution, only a theory. The Germ Theory of disease to be exact. There is a law of gravity which describes the attraction between two objects. However, why objects are attracted to each other is known as the Theory of Gravity. Part of the Theory of Relativity is mass-energy equivalency and there is some excellent proof that this theory is accurate. When science talks about the Theory of Evolution it is in this same context. There are mountains of evidence for evolution both macro and micro. Scientific theories are also expected to make predictions and evolution passes this test as well. Evolution has been seen in the lab.

    I'm not the first to say this but I invite all people who doubt evolution to take drink a glass of Ebola, or walk off a 40 story building.

  • The Wraith Kaysville, UT
    May 17, 2014 4:51 p.m.

    I would describe myself as a liberal, very liberal even. I'm also an atheist and a teacher. But I simply cannot imagine telling a student not to read their holy book in the situation this student was in. I don't know what this teacher was thinking but what she did was clearly wrong. I've been through a few training sessions focused on religion and her actions - if they are as reported - went against everything I've been taught about these situations. This should be one of those situations where the school, teacher, and district just say well we messed up and we are very sorry and then move on. Sadly that rarely happens when mistakes are made, it's just human nature to try cover things up or deny wrong doing.

    Now if the story isn't accurate then obviously that will change things but this seems to have some solid evidence behind it.

  • Frozen Fractals Salt Lake City, UT
    May 17, 2014 1:18 p.m.

    @Reasonable Man
    " although many in the scientific community argue that evolution is science, it is not. It is a theory into which all findings "

    'The formal scientific definition of "theory" is quite different from the everyday meaning of the word. It refers to a comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence.' - US National Academy of Sciences

  • Schnee Salt Lake City, UT
    May 17, 2014 1:10 p.m.

    "Also, Can the teachers union self regulate? I'm calling all the teachers in America out.

    Clean up your own problems. Kick these guys out of your ranks!"

    Pretty sure you all would be throwing a fit if a teacher made anti-same-sex marriage remarks and got fired...

  • Laura Bilington Maple Valley, WA
    May 17, 2014 10:39 a.m.

    “This is the most shocking piece of evidence I’ve seen in the 12 years of religious liberty work that I’ve been doing", says Hiram Sasser.

    The teacher told the kid he couldn't read the book. She didn't beat him, publicly humiliate him, mock him in front of other kids, whatever. And this is the "most shocking" thing that Sasser has seen in 12 years? Is he serious?

    You might compare this "treatment" by the teacher to the treatment frequently given to gay teenagers, by faculty and students. Religiously believing faculty and students. Then decide which is more shocking.

  • DonO Draper, UT
    May 17, 2014 9:18 a.m.

    I agree that there seems to be more to this story than what we read here. Attacks on religious liberty are abhorrent, but so is it abhorrent when people and groups like the Liberty Institute manufacture supposed attacks.

  • Meckofahess Salt Lake City, UT
    May 17, 2014 8:57 a.m.

    Bravo to Mr. Giovanni for standing up to this misguided and bigoted teacher. There should be no place in America for teachers who discriminate against students who want to exercise their freedom of religion!

  • Chessermesser West Valley City, UT
    May 17, 2014 7:44 a.m.

    The teacher blew it. The school district blew it. The parent seems to have gone for news exposure, instead of resolution.

  • flatlander Omaha, NE
    May 17, 2014 7:13 a.m.

    Heck, I'd be thrilled that my kid was reading anything

  • Max Upstate, NY
    May 17, 2014 7:11 a.m.

    I really do wonder about the IQ of some of these teachers. Scary!

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    May 17, 2014 6:04 a.m.

    Lets be real, with several hundreds of thousands of teachers in this county, you will come across a few bad apples. Sounds like the bad apples in this school district have exposed themselves. As Christopher Blackwell states above, there is no mass conspiracy going on here, just an isolated case of stupidity.

  • Blue Salt Lake City, UT
    May 17, 2014 1:02 a.m.

    Was the teacher correct to tell the kid not to read his bible on his free time? Of course not. It was a bone-headed thing to say.

    Did the school district immediately (this happened 10 days ago) issue a statement indicating that what the teacher said was wrong? Yes.

    Did the district attempt to defend the teacher? Nope.

    Is there any school district policy to support the teacher? None.

    The teacher was wrong. Stupid, in fact. The district took timely, appropriate steps to remedy the error. Let the system work.

    The level of outrage is wildly disproportionate to the offense.

  • lonepeakstudent Alpine, UT
    May 16, 2014 11:28 p.m.

    An isolated case does not religious persecution make.

  • ChristopherBlackwell Deming, NM
    May 16, 2014 9:39 p.m.

    There is still lot of confusion about what is allowed a far as religion in school and yes some teachers over react as this one has for whatever reason.

    But as a Pagan I have kept up with the court decisions and it is plain that as long as a public school is not pushing any religion, each student retains the right to read their own religious text during their free time. Just as a student my quietly pray at any time in school. That includes a Wiccan reading her Wiccan books or a Christian reading the Bible.

    There was a court case about a Texas public school where a teacher took away a student's Bible the case was taken on by the ACLU and of course won. There was absolutely no question about the legal right of the student to have her Bible at school.

    So contrary to some wild claims God is still very much in school as a private right of every student. And please tae a look around the world what real religious persecution is where you might be beaten, killed, or sent to jail for practicing your religion.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    May 16, 2014 9:23 p.m.

    @ greatbam22

    Read the Miami Herald's coverage of the story on May 5th and 6th. The child claims this teacher prevented him from reading his Bible during free periods. The school disputes this, stating that these occurrences took place during an Accelerated Reader Program (ARP) period. The child's Bible is not a part of this program. However, he is free to read it during free periods.

    The Liberty Institute demanded a public apology from the school in exchange for not filing a lawsuit. The school complied and reiterated its policy that children are allowed to read personal religious materials during their free periods. Liberty Institute then saw fit to demand that the child also be allowed to read his Bible in the ARP.

    The Herald echoes what I found in my initial research - that Liberty Institute has a reputation for making unsubstantiated claims. So I think my skepticism about this story is justified. They've cried wolf too many times and shown too little regard for the truth to take them at their word now.

  • SLBR Harrisburg, IL
    May 16, 2014 9:09 p.m.

    As a teacher, my first response was shock at the headline then I asked myself, "Was this during the Accelerated Reading time and was the Bible in his reading range?" Accelerated Reading time is very closely monitored and only certain books at certain levels can be read depending on the student. If the child wants to read a Bible for AR, then he and his parents should look at the list and comply.

    On the other hand, if the teacher was quoted correctly, the issue was not whether the book was on the list but rather that the book was religious. This is totally not correct. Before judging this teacher too harshly, I can say from personal experience that teachers often feel they are walking a tightrope of political correctness. I believe this was a knee jerk response by an inexperienced teacher. She should have found out the policy before taking action.

  • JSB Sugar City, ID
    May 16, 2014 9:03 p.m.

    @ JDJones. Though I have defended the theory of evolution in many different settings, I am not so blind that I can’t see inexplicable problems with it. The Cambrian explosion is a geological fact yet it runs directly counter to Darwin's theory that evolution is orderly.

    It's a huge leap from theories about the earliest primitive and simple organic molecules evolving into complex organic molecules such as DNA. Where are the intermediate organic molecules and how did they spontaneously evolve?

    Evolution cannot explain complex anatomical adaptation. The inner ear, eyes, gills, lungs, etc. are very complex and composed of different interdependent parts that had to evolve independently but simultaneously in order for the organ to function. It is beyond comprehension to think that these organs just spontaneously happened.

    Though it isn’t nearly as complex as the inner ear, it is obvious that Stonehenge was a human creation (i.e. intelligent design), and not some strange geological quirk. If Stonehenge was actually created by somebody, why is it so hard to accept intelligent design when studying the Cambrian explosion, DNA, or the development of complex organs and systems?

  • greatbam22 andrews afb, MD
    May 16, 2014 7:47 p.m.

    @ Karen R.
    If you listen to the message by the teacher to the father she states specifically :

    "I noticed that he has a book — a religious book — in the classroom," Thomas said in a message left for Giovanni's father. "He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom."

    She could have easily said "He is not allow to read that specific version of the bible" but she says "a religious book".

    If it was as you say a different version of the bible it should really matter.

  • A Guy With A Brain Enid, OK
    May 16, 2014 5:51 p.m.

    Article quote: "Not only did his teacher, Swornia Thomas, make the comments at school, but she then called 12-year-old Giovanni Rubeo's father about the situation. "I noticed that he has a book — a religious book — in the classroom," Thomas said in a message left for Giovanni's father. "He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom."

    OK, so would someone from the liberal side tell me again how they think that conservatives, and Christians specifically, are NOT being persecuted by "government" entities?

    (And, yes, public schools are government entities since they receive tax dollars.)

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    May 16, 2014 5:30 p.m.

    From the school district web page about the Accelerated Reader Program: "Students select books from a wide range of titles based on their readability level. After reading the books, students take a computerized comprehension test, receiving points based on the difficulty and length of the book."

    A search brought up 20 pages worth of books about religion and Bible chapters themselves. The Bible chapters were something called "NIV Student Version." So perhaps the student's personal Bible did not qualify if he wanted to receive the associated credits? Perhaps the father - who seem to anticipate this and prepped his son on how to respond - was looking for a fight? I'm suspicious because of the Liberty Institute's involvement. They apparently have a track record of unsubstantiated claims.

    So maybe this is really about a technicality that someone with an agenda is attempting to exploit. It remains under investigation so we'll see. But if this really is about a child being prevented from reading a Bible on his free time, then I agree - that shouldn't happen.

  • Reasonable Man Salt Lake City, UT
    May 16, 2014 4:43 p.m.

    JD Jones: although many in the scientific community argue that evolution is science, it is not. It is a theory into which all findings have been shoehorned for the last century. It remains a theory, in that the evidence is all circumstantial and is interpreted with the "truth" of evolution as a given assumption. From amphibious apes to Dawkins' circular argument that we know it's true because it happened, evolutionists have assumed the validity of the initial step in their odyssey without subjecting it to rigorous scientific scrutiny. To believe in evolution requires many leaps of faith comparable to the most superstitious of religions, and evolutionists ought to re-examine their assumption in order to subject it to scientific method and to ask themselves why they want to believe in it. Ditto even more so for non-scientist jump-on-the-most convenient-bandwagon atheists.

  • Eliot Genola, UT
    May 16, 2014 4:19 p.m.

    Perhaps there is more to the story than we are getting here in this very brief news article. Still, there is some irony in the Liberty Institute citing federal education policy to inculpate the teacher and the local school district in Florida.

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    May 16, 2014 4:05 p.m.

    I listened to the voice mail the "teacher" left the father. Without reading too much into a person's diction and word choice -- oh, heck, that's exactly what I'm doing: She's a complete mouth-breather, emblematic of everything wrong with public education, given a little authority and no restraint against it going to her head, such as it is.

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    May 16, 2014 3:52 p.m.

    Sounds like this school district is another liberal Christian hater. I hope they don't give up and force this anti-Christian school district to follow the law and not make up their own.

  • Red San Antonia, TX
    May 16, 2014 3:27 p.m.

    America is heading over a cliff and we have our "teachers" helping get us their faster!

    Also, Can the teachers union self regulate? I'm calling all the teachers in America out.

    Clean up your own problems. Kick these guys out of your ranks!

    Remember the Alamo! Did Davey Crockett die so our kids can be bullied by liberals?

  • klimber510 Salt Lake City, UT
    May 16, 2014 3:25 p.m.

    An altogether fair and balanced response on the part of the father and the Liberty Institute. No individuals or the school were vilified, and the teacher and school were invited to act consistent with established policy. Respect for diversity takes many forms.

  • JD Jones Salt Lake City, UT
    May 16, 2014 3:19 p.m.

    I'm an Atheist, and I have no problem with some kid wanting to read the Bible during free reading time. My problem is when religious folks insist that intelligent design, which is has nothing to do with science, should be taught along side evolution, which is scientifically solid. If you believe in the intelligent design, fine; just don't insist that it's science.