The question of what is appropriate reading for school and what is not is in the news again. At issue is not Common Core-approved stories like Sherman Alexie’s “Every Little Hurricane, which contains the line “You ain’t sh*t, you f**king apple.” Rather, it is the Holy Bible.
Houston station KHOU reports (h/t the Right Scoop) that a second-grade student at Hamilton Elementary has said that during a “read to myself” time two weeks ago, she was told by her teacher that the Good Book is not a good choice for in-school reading and that the teacher then confiscated the book.
Instead of confronting the school or the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District directly, the child’s family, who chooses to remain anonymous, reached out instead to the Liberty Institute. The group dedicates itself to preserving religious freedom in the U.S.
Michael Berry, senior counsel with the Liberty Institute, noted that Hamilton Elementary’s library contains copies of the Bible, adding, “[I]f it’s appropriate for their own library, why on Earth would it not be appropriate for their own students.”
The district, which claims it learned of the incident through the media, said in a statement that children are required during independent reading to select a book meets certain criteria, including fitting in with the genre being taught in school. Unless the class is reading the Koran — no small if in today’s upside-down world of education — the Bible is presumably incompatible.
The bigger issue and the one largely misinterpreted by administrators and parents is a correct interpretation of the laws of the land. Above and beyond the Constitution, which makes no direct reference to a separation between church and state, the Supreme Court handed down two rulings in the 1960s, which impact this case. Engel v. Vitale (1962) held that state-sponsored prayer was forbidden in schools. Abington School District v. Schempp (1963) maintained that group Bible readings were prohibited. Neither ruling bans individuals from praying or reading religious texts on their own while on school grounds.
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