You Have To Be This Educated To Be This Stupid. Again.

Photo courtesy Advocates for Faith & Freedom

Photo courtesy Advocates for Faith & Freedom

Brynn Williams is a first grade student at the Helen Hunt-Jackson Elementary School in the Temecula Valley Unified School District in Riverside County. California. On December 19, 2013, Williams’s class was asked by their teacher to make presentations to the class as to family traditions their families have surrounding the holidays.

In response to the assignment, student Brynn Williams took the “Star of Bethlehem” ornament from the top of her family’s Christmas tree “to represent her family’s tradition of remembering why Christmas is celebrated,” and worked diligently on a one-minute presentation in order to explain to the class that her family’s tradition is to remember the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas time, attorneys said.

The following day, attorneys say Brynn began her presentation with the following statement: “Our Christmas tradition is to put a star on top of our tree. The star is named the Star of Bethlehem. The 3 kings followed the star to find baby Jesus, the Savior of the world. John…”

According to attorneys, at that point during the presentation, Brynn’s teacher said, “Stop right there! Go take your seat!” and Brynn was not allowed to finish her presentation, which included reciting a Bible verse from the Gospel of John, John 3:16.

Robert Tyler, the general counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom, is representing the Williams’ family.

Tyler said the little girl was the only student in the class not allowed to finish her presentation.

“After Brynn took her seat, the teacher explained to Brynn in front of all the other students that she was not allowed to talk about the Bible or share its verses,” Tyler said.

Williams’s mother found out about the incident after school the same day when her daughter was upset and had to be convinced she had done nothing wrong.

The next day, Gina Williams met with the principal to discuss the incident.

The principal confirmed that Brynn’s teacher did the appropriate thing by stopping her mid-presentation and there are specific education codes that protect the school,” Williams said. “

The principal then asked Brynn, who had tears in her eyes, to come into her office and deliver the same presentation that was censored in the classroom. Afterwards, the principal stood by her decision.

“She confirmed there was no way Brynn could finish that presentation,” the disappointed mom told me. It was to protect the other students from being offended by Brynn’s presentation.”

The principal reportedly told her that Brynn could write about her beliefs in a journal but she was not allowed to share her beliefs aloud to any other student.

Quite simply, the teacher and the principal are either ignorant, woefully misinformed or deliberately trampling on the rights of a child.

According to the US Department of Education:

Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Such home and classroom work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school. Thus, if a teacher’s assignment involves writing a poem, the work of a student who submits a poem in the form of a prayer (for example, a psalm) should be judged on the basis of academic standards (such as literary quality) and neither penalized nor rewarded on account of its religious content.

Furthermore, the principal’s assertion that a student may not “share their beliefs aloud to any other student” is wrong as well:

Students may pray when not engaged in school activities or instruction, subject to the same rules designed to prevent material disruption of the educational program that are applied to other privately initiated expressive activities. Among other things, students may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray or study religious materials with fellow students during recess, the lunch hour, or other noninstructional time to the same extent that they may engage in nonreligious activities. While school authorities may impose rules of order and pedagogical restrictions on student activities, they may not discriminate against student prayer or religious speech in applying such rules and restrictions.

One may think “well, it is impossible for teachers and administrators to know the law.” We would disagree on that as educators are constantly holding workshops on diversity and other issues, but even assuming the school employees don’t know the law, shouldn’t they know the policies of the school district iteslf?

In a letter (seen below) to the Superintendent and the School Board, Robert Tyler from Advocates for Faith & Freedom notes:

Board Policy 6141.2 (a) expressly states that “students may express their beliefs about religion in their homework, artwork and other class work if the expression is germane to the assignment.”

How silly it is for the teacher and the principal to not know the policies of the school district?

The School District, for their part, is “investigating” and said in a statement:

The Temecula Valley Unified School District respects all students’ rights under the Constitution and takes very seriously any allegation of discrimination. Due to the fact that District officials are currently investigating the allegations, it would be inappropriate to provide further comment at this time,” the district said in a statement.

We suspect part of the “investigation” is trying to figure out how to say district employees are more educated on worthless “zero tolerance” policies than the US Constitution, the California Constitution and the policies of the The Temecula Valley Unified School District.

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