A freshman at Western Hills High School in Fort Worth, Texas, was suspended Tuesday for making a statement about his religious beliefs.
The suspended student, Dakota Ary, commented to his friend in their German class that his Christian beliefs say homosexuality is wrong.
"I said, 'I'm Christian and, to me, being homosexual is wrong,'" Ary recounted to NBC. "And then he (the teacher) got mad, wrote me an infraction and sent me to the office."
The teacher was reportedly telling students how to say religion and Christianity in German. Ary asked a question about Bibles in different countries and what language they are in. According to the family’s attorney, Matt Krause with Liberty Counsel, religious discussions had come up in the classroom before.
After Ary commented to his friend about his Christian beliefs, the teacher reportedly began yelling at him and took him to the front office. His mother was contacted while at work to be informed that her son would have a referral and two-day suspension because of his “inappropriate” comments.
“When I got the phone call saying Dakota disrupted the class by making an inappropriate comment, I knew that just wasn’t right,” his mother, Holly Pope, told The Christian Post. “Dakota doesn’t do that. It’s out of his character.”
Pope believes there was a problem with the classroom. According to reports, just one week earlier the German teacher posted a picture of two men kissing, on the chalkboard in front of the classroom.
“He told the students that this was homosexuality and that they needed to accept it,” Krause said. Some students protested and when the teacher left the classroom, one student tore down the poster.
Commenting on the poster, Pope said, “He’s (Dakota) been in church his whole life. Just being a Christian doesn’t mean you surround yourself with just Christians. He goes to a public school, so he will be faced with things he doesn’t believe in or feel is right. That’s fine. For a picture, I didn’t feel it was necessary to raise alarm.”
With this new incident, however, red flags may need to be raised.
“The whole idea of a student being suspended for stating their religious beliefs in a factual manner is extremely concerning,” Candi Cushman, education analyst at Focus on the Family, said. “Have we gotten to the point where students have to check their religious beliefs at the door before entering school?”
Krause also asserted to NBC that students shouldn’t be forced to shed their First Amendment rights at the school house doors.
"And he wasn't disrupting class, he wasn't hurting or harassing anybody. He was just stating his religious beliefs in a benign, non-hostile way," he noted.
According to NBC, the standard referral form asks whether the incident is of a bullying or cyber-bullying nature. In Ary’s case, the word "possibly" is written.
Krause and Pope met with school administrators Wednesday morning about the referral and in-school suspension. After hearing Ary’s version of the events, the principal reduced the in-school suspension to one day. However, for Ary and Pope, even one day of suspension is wrong.
“It can’t be one day, it needs to be no days. He didn’t do anything wrong. It was a class discussion about religion,” Pope said.
Krause commented to CP, “It’s silly to say there’s been bullying. I’ve heard a lot more violence about homosexual lifestyle before. This is just a student stating what he believes. If we can’t allow that, then the First Amendment has failed.”
According to Krause, the friend Ary made his comment to has said he did not feel threatened or bullied in any way.
Pope said the principal appeared sympathetic to their cause and seemed to believe the case had gotten out of hand. The incident, Krause said, would not be recorded in the school’s file.
“There’s been no formal apology, but they are trying to right a wrong. From a legal standpoint, we applaud them for that. Some administrators can dig in their heels, these guys didn’t do that,” Krause noted.
Ary returned to class Wednesday after serving the in-school suspension Tuesday.
The school could not be reached for comment.