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6th-grader Andrew White
A public school teacher in Mississippi marked down an eleven-year-old’s Christmas poem assignment and told the boy to rewrite it because he used the word “Jesus,” which, the instructor explained, is a name not allowed in school.
Liberty Counsel, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, reports that sixth-grader Andrew White of Hattiesburg, Miss., chose to write the poem on the assignment “What Christmas means to me.”
After White turned in his rough draft, however, his teacher circled the word “Jesus” and deducted a point from his grade. The teacher then explained that he needed to rewrite the poem without the offending word.
When White’s parents questioned the teacher, Liberty Counsel reports, they received a response email explaining, “[Andrew] and another child did a poem about Christ. I know we can’t discuss these type [sic] of things in school so I asked the two of them to do another poem of their choice.”
Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University School of Law, expressed dismay that despite many legal clarifications on the issue, there are still educationl officials that mistakenly believe students can’t speak of their faith at school.
“Some educators need education that the story of Christmas is not banned from public schools,” Staver said in a statement.
Staver says he was “horrified that a sixth-grader was told by his teacher, ‘we can’t discuss these types of things in school.’ I don’t understand why some people don’t get it. Christmas is a state and federal holiday. Schools are closed to celebrate this holiday. Obviously, Christmas is constitutional.”
The principal at White’s Thames Elementary School agreed with Staver.
After White’s parents encouraged Andrew to turn in his first, unedited poem, Principal Carrie Hornsby changed the boy’s grade to a 100 and conceded that there was nothing improper in using Jesus’ name. Hornsby also coordinated a mailing to all the school’s parents, explaining that students’ religious expression is permitted under federal guidelines.
White’s parents, however, told OneNewsNow that the situation has caused them to consider homeschooling their son, concerned about other challenges to the faith Andrew may be experiencing apart from their knowledge.
Andrew’s original poem, “A Great Christmas,” reads: “The best Christmas ever is when everyone is there. It is when everyone is laughing here and there. That is the Christmas I want to share. Christmas is about Jesus’ birth. About peace on Earth. This is what Christmas is about. It is when He lay in a manger. And the three wise men come to see. That’s what it means to me.”