An elementary school near Memphis, Tenn. has reversed its previous decision to reject a 10-year-old's assignment that describes God as her idol, and has now instead awarded the assignment a 100 percent mark.
The school previously told the young student that she could not choose God as her idol, and was even told she had to remove her assignment from school premises. However, after intense media backlash and involvement from the Liberty Institute, the school has changed its mind and performed a U-turn.
Erica Shead, mother of 10-year-old Erin Shead, complained to the Shelby County School District last month when a teacher at Lucy Elementary School told her daughter she could not write on God for a class assignment that required students to describe their idol. The girl was forced to take her rejected assignment home and pick another idol, with the teacher later accepting Michael Jackson as her replacement.
Shead spoke to local media outlets such as WREG-TV about the issue, saying she believed the school didn't have a right to dictate her daughter's religious beliefs. The story then gained a widespread media coverage, and lawyers for Liberty Institute, a Christian legal defense organization, stepped in to speak with Shelby County School officials regarding the incident.
"Of course students can talk and write about God in school," Liberty Attorney Jeremy Dys said in a press release from Liberty Institute. "Young teachers, like Erin's, have been barraged with so much false information for so long that they are afraid that a 10-year-old student's coloring assignment might violate the First Amendment. That kind of intimidation by the ACLU and Freedom from Religion Foundation is wrong and is precisely what Liberty Institute was founded to combat."
Shead said in a recent interview with WREG-TV, that she brought her daughter's experience to the public not to receive money, but to ensure her daughter's constitutional liberties are protected. "I didn't want any money. I strictly wanted Erin's right to be able to express herself not to ever be taken away again," Shead said.
"I just wanted every Christian to know that we have a right to be able to express ourselves. We understand that they've taken prayer out of schools but they cannot take God out of our children," the mother added.
Shead told WREG-TV in an interview last month that the school principal and the teacher behind the incident indicated they were sorry for what had transpired, and the teacher added that she had been nervous and confused about how to handle the situation.
"The children started talking and some didn't believe in God and some did and they were talking about it," Erica said last month. "[The teacher] did admit that she didn't know how to handle that situation."