An elementary school principal who barred students from studying the Bible during recess after a complaint from parents is violating the Constitution, according to a public-interest law firm challenging her actions.
In a letter to the Knox County School District in Tennesee, the Alliance Defense Fund declared the principal of Karns Elementary School is on “shaky constitutional ground.”
“The Constitution does not prohibit Bibles during recess; it prohibits the wholesale banning of Bibles during recess,” said Charles Pope, the ADF-allied attorney who wrote the letter to the district.
“A school official cannot tell a student that he can’t bring his Bible to school or study it with friends during non-classroom time,” Pope stated.
According to ADF, 10-year-old student Luke Whitson used his regularly scheduled recess time to read the Bible with a few friends on his school’s playground. After receiving a complaint from a parent, the principal reportedly ordered the students to stop their activity, put their Bibles away and cease from bringing them to school.
“There are no ‘age discrimination’ allowances in the First Amendment of the Constitution,” said ADF Senior Counsel Joseph Infranco. “The law protects these students the same as it protects all students.”
Infranco said children “have rights of speech and association during their non-instructional time, and the school may not curtail those rights because of their age.”
Whitson’s parents sought legal assistance from Pope, who contends “the law as it pertains to this situation is well settled.”
“Students may have religious discussions and Bible study during non-instructional time,” he explained in his letter. “The school district should immediately issue a statement addressing the unconstitutional actions and policy and alerting all personnel to permit Luke and other similarly situated students to exercise their constitutional rights.”