- (Photo: Screenshot/WREG-TV)
The Memphis, Tennessee elementary school that banned a 10-year-old from writing about God for a class assignment has since called the incident a "regrettable misunderstanding" that the school's teachers will learn from.
"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," Shelby County Schools, the district that encompasses Lucy Elementary School in Millington, Tenn., said in a statement to local news channel WREG-TV.
"This was a regrettable misunderstanding, and we as educators must learn from it. 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," the statement added.
Last week, an unnamed teacher at Lucy Elementary School reportedly told 10-year-old student Erin Shead that she could not write about God for a class assignment that asked students to describe their idol. For the assignment, Shead had created a colorful diagram describing why God was her idol, writing: "God is my idol, I will never hate him. He will always be the number one person I look up to."
The teacher ordered Erin to start the class assignment over, telling the young girl that she could not even keep the first assignment on school premises and had to take it home. The teacher then approved Erin's second pick for an idol: deceased pop star Michael Jackson.
Furious with the teacher's discrimination against her daughter's religious beliefs, Erin's mother, Erica Shead, told her daughter's story to the local news station, WREG-TV, arguing that her daughter's first assignment was simply "cute and innocent."
"How can you tell this baby, that's a Christian, what she can say and what she can't say?" Erica Shead questioned.
Seeking answers, the girl's mother visited the school the morning after the incident to speak with the principal on the issue. Christian Ross, the school district's spokesperson, told Fox News last week that the "incident has been addressed at the school-level, and the principal has contacted parents of the student regarding their concerns."
The issue of religious freedom in America's public schools has long been hotly debated. Many Christians have expressed their concern over discrimination against religious expression in the public school system. In 2011 in Virginia, Floyd County High School officials ordered Christian athletes to remove copies of the Ten Commandments posted on their lockers. Also in 2011, the Brownsville Independent School District in Texas barred students from visibly wearing articles of faith, such as crosses or rosaries, while on school grounds.
While schools seem to be continuing to limit the expression of Christianity, some Christian parents argue that they are conversely becoming more accepting of atheism. In August, Georgia mother Crystal Mitchell argued that if religious expression isn't allowed in her daughter's school, then an image posted in her child's classroom reading "God is dead" should also be removed.
The piece of artwork was reportedly created by a student and is based on "The Crucible," a 1953 play by American playwright Arthur Miller based on the Salem witch trials. "If my child can't pray in school and they've taken religion out of school, for this to be plastered on the walls of the public school is a huge concern to me," Mitchell told the Atlanta-based Fox affiliate, WAGA-TV. "It doesn't have a place on the school wall, it just doesn't have a place in public school."
In a recent victory for religious expression, a New Hampshire mother who was previously barred from praying out loud on the steps of her children's high school has now been allowed to pray in silence on the school campus.