Florida School Superintendent Offers Apology After Bible Controversy

A Florida school superintendent apologized for an incident involving a 12-year-old student who was told by his teacher that he could not read the Bible during a free-reading period in class.

Broward Schools chief Robert Runcie called the case an "isolated incident" during a school board meeting Tuesday while assuring that the teacher's actions were not representative of the school system's values.

"First, let me apologize to the student and his family. This was a situation that should have been handled differently," said Runcie, according to the Sun Sentinel. "... Let me be clear, Broward County Public Schools respects and upholds the right to bring personal religious material to school, including the Bible."

He added that the school administrators reached out to the faculty to ensure they are familiar with district policies and state and federal laws.

"From the Supreme Court to the federal Department of Education, the laws are clear respecting the rights of our students to be able to bring religious materials to school and to have access to those materials during free reading time, lunch and non-instructional time," said Runcie.

The incident occurred in April when Giovanni Rubeo's teacher told him he could not read his Bible during his class' free reading time. It was not the first time she reprimanded Rubeo regarding the issue, which compelled her to call Rubeo's father to report what had happened.

However, Broward school officials dispute the version of events and say Rubeo was not allowed to read the Bible because there was an accelerated reading program taking place at the time.

Runcie's apology was issued after The Liberty Institute, a legal group dedicated to defending religious liberty in the U.S., sent a letter to Broward County Public Schools to revise its policies and offer an apology.

Jeremy Dys, the attorney representing the Rubeo family, declined to comment until he receives a written apology.

"When I get a letter that says that, we'll have a comment for sure," said Dys, reports the Sun Sentinel. "Since they said that at a public meeting, I'm assuming they're putting something together now. We just need it in writing."

He added, "Giovanni has every right to read his Bible during these free reading times, just like every other student does, and that needs to be reinforced in Broward County and throughout the country."

School officials are currently reviewing Rubeo's teacher's actions to determine if any discipline is necessary.