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Tenn. Principal Violated Student's Rights by Blocking Bible Study, Parents Argue

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  • School
    (Photo: Knox County School District)
    Karns Elementary School, located in Knoxville, Tennessee.
By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter
March 1, 2012|4:20 pm

Tennessee parents have brought a suit against the school district where their son was enrolled to an appeals court because a principal stopped their son from having a Bible study during recess on campus.

Samuel and Tina Whitson brought their case against Knox County Schools before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, with briefs filed on Wednesday.

Jon Scruggs, litigation staff counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, told The Christian Post that the Whitsons' son, Luke, had every right to read the Bible with friends during recess.

"Luke Whitson simply wanted to participate in a Bible study with his fellow classmates and discuss the Bible with them," said Scruggs. "ADF took on the representation in order to protect Luke's rights and also the rights of other students."

The incident took place back in 2004. Luke, then in fourth grade, would meet with friends during recess at Karns Elementary School in Knoxville to read the Bible and talk about it. However, when a parent complained about their activity, the principal met with some of the students at the study and told them to stop.

Russ Oaks, chief of staff for Knox County Schools, explained to CP that after the incident a resolution was considered by the Board of Education for Knox County.

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"According to our records the BOE considered on first reading in May 2006 a policy addressing discretionary time which passed on first reading but never received a second reading," said Oaks.

"However, the board adopted a policy on second reading in June 2006 entitled IKCC Religious Expression."

According to the policy, "Students and employees can engage in expression of personal religious views or beliefs within the parameters of current law."

"Knox County Schools neither advances nor inhibits religion."

Scruggs told CP that this resolution was not enough to rectify the issues the parents had with the school district given that the original resolution was not adopted.

"At one point, the defendants introduced a policy to the school board that would allow reading during discretionary time. This policy went through a 'first reading' by the dchool noard," said Scruggs.

"But for it to become officially passed, it had to go through a 'second reading.' The policy never went through this 'second reading,' and so it was never official passed."

The Whitsons' case was first brought before federal court in 2005, where U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips ruled against them.

 

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