(Photo: Screenshot via KHOU-TV)
A second-grader's Bible was confiscated by a teacher at an elementary school in Texas during a designated "read-to-myself" time, parents of the child claim.
Parents of the second-grade girl attending Hamilton Elementary School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District allege that the incident occurred two weeks ago. Their daughter brought her book of choice, the Bible, to school for a "read-to-myself" time, when students have the opportunity to read a book of their choice to themselves.
The student's second grade teacher reportedly told the young girl that she could not bring the Bible to school, going so far as to confiscate the Bible from the student. The teacher then reportedly told the second grader she could not bring the Bible back to school, flagging it as "inappropriate reading material." The parents of the young girl, who are choosing to remain anonymous to avoid retribution, contacted the Liberty Institute and the local media to share their concern.
The Liberty Institute, a legal organization dedicated to defending religious liberty, said Tuesday that its legal counsel sent a letter to the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, explaining that "the teacher's alleged censorship of private, student religious expression is illegal and violates the U.S. Constitution, federal guidelines and state law."
Michael Berry, senior counsel for the Liberty Institute, said his organization hopes the school district will resolve the matter quickly. "We expect Cy Fair ISD officials to resolve this unfortunate incident quickly and amicably by informing us that they have addressed this matter with District employees, and by assuring us that this will not happen again."
"More than forty years ago, the Supreme Court famously stated that students do not 'shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.' That means that second graders have the right to read the Bible during 'read to myself' time," Berry added.
Berry told the local KHOU-TV station that he found the incident especially confusing because Hamilton Elementary reportedly carries multiple Bibles in their school library, so it seems strange that a student would not be allowed to read the Holy Book during the "read-to-myself" program.
The school district has released a statement responding to the allegations, saying it first heard of the incident through the media and must conduct an investigation to determine if the accusations are credible.
The district added in its statement that if the incident did in fact happen as the parents explained it, then the second grade child would certainly be allowed to read the Bible during the personal reading time.
"During a student's independent reading time, students are required to read a book that is 'Just Right.' A 'Just Right' book is when the student can read most of the words, comprehend the text and that the book is appropriate for the type of text or genre that is being taught. As such religious material, including the Bible, that meets these guidelines would be permissible for a classroom assignment and/or independent reading."