Florida School Banning Kids from Reading Bible During ‘Free Reading’ Time

A Broward County, Florida public school teacher sought to ban an elementary school student from reading the Bible or any religious book during an independent reading time where kids are required to pick their own books to read.

The teacher, an African American teacher named Mrs. Thomas, called the parents of fifth-grade Park Lakes Elementary School student Giovanni Rubeo demanding that they agree with her that religious books are banned from public schools and hinting that they need to punish their child.

This teacher also made a big show out of scolding the child in the classroom, too. When she saw that the child was reading the Bible she made him put the book down on the desk right there in the classroom and then immediately demanded he get his parents on the phone.

This teacher’s actions were obviously meant as a warning to the other kids, too.

When the teacher called the parents she left a message:

Good morning Mr. Rubeo, Mrs. Thomas. Giovanni called you because I asked him to. I noticed that he has a book–a religious book–in the classroom. He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom. He said, if I told him to put it away you said not to do that. So, please give me a call, I need to have some understanding on direction to him about the book he’s reading as opposed to the curriculum for public school. Mrs. S. Thomas. Thank you. Have a wonderful day. Bye-bye.


This case has been taken up by the Liberty Institute. The group is demanding that the teacher cease her illegal efforts to ban religious books from her classroom and are calling for the school district to make sure all teachers know that what Mrs. Thomas did was illegal. The school’s actions violate boy’s Constitutional rights and run contrary to the Establishment Clause, the Free Speech Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“We expect Broward County Public School officials to resolve this unfortunate incident quickly and amicably,” Jeremy Dys, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel, said. “Absent such an apology and assurance that students in Broward County Public Schools may read religious books like the Bible during free reading times, our client is prepared to take legal action.”

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  • JWH

    The school is dropping the ball on this one. As a threshold matter, as long as the
    “free reading period” is for reading books of the student’s choice (as opposed to some form of classroom reading) the kid should be able to read his Bible. If the teacher tells him not to read that Bible during the free-reading period, the teacher is (IMO) pretty clearly violating the kid’s First Amendment rights.

    I can certainly understand, however, if the principal would prefer not to take a direct stand on the matter while it’s being reviewed by the school district’s legal department. When somebody sics lawyers on you, you shouldn’t say or do anything until your own lawyers give you the OK. But, IMO, the kid ought to be allowed to read his Bible, and be free of teacher harassment, until the school system’s lawyers finish their review.

  • Hank_M

    This is simply unbelievable.
    And I have to wonder, would Mrs. Thomas have done the same thing if a student was reading the Koran.

    • Brucehenry

      Immediately claiming victimhood! Poor poor picked upon Christians!

      That was to YOU Hank. The kid should be allowed to read whatever he wants during free reading time, as long as “free reading” wasn’t understood as “free to read anything on this list.”

      • Hank_M

        Little knee-jerk there Bruce?
        The teachers behavior was absurd and to be more direct, I don’t think she’d dare do the same to a Muslim student.
        Maybe it’s time liberals/progressives started showing a little tolerance for others.

        • Anonymouse

          I think she probably would have, and she’d have even gotten away with it.
          This persecution of religion no matter which one must stop!
          I wouldn’t call her behavior to be liberal at all, nor is it conservative, she may be a politically liberal person though but I can’t say for sure. there’s a difference between being liberal and being a liberal.

    • jim_m

      This is not unbelievable. This sort of thing happens every day. The good news is that there are a host of legal organizations that are available to sue the crap out of the school district. (in fact the reason that there are so many organizations available to help is because this happens almost daily and because it happens mostly to Christians the ACLU doesn’t give a damn)

      This will end with the teacher submitting the requested apology and the school district clarifying to their staff that it is perfectly legal for students to bring the Bible or other religious texts onto the campus and to read them during their free time. The school will settle this because any lawyer with half their retainer will tell them that this is a loser for the district and they have zero chance of prevailing.

    • Crysta

      Gotta wonder how fast the other parents would have jumped on the fear of their poor little sheep children being accidentally exposed to the Quaran…

      Remember, they like to think that constitutional protections only apply to christians…

      • jim_m

        Got proof of that or is that just you being a bigot?

        Mind you, there is a difference between a student bringing a religious text to read during their free time and the school conducting a lesson requiring them to read a religious text.

        • Crysta

          Schools often ask kids to bring in “free reading” that is applicable to the stuff being taught in class. It is a powerful teaching tool, to connect learning with something the child loves. Very little of the school time is truly “free” time (aside from recess and lunch)

          And yes, it has been raised. A friend of mine actually had to deal with that exact issue 2 months ago. But of course it didn’t get the press that this one did… For obvious reasons.

          • jim_m

            You’re claiming that some unnamed friend had their child bring a koran to school and that other parents complained to the school about it? Seeing as you have no proof I still call bullshit.

            FWIW, the Liberty Institute above has been involved in a case with the Air Force Academy protecting the rights of cadets to write verses from the Bible AND Koran on white boards on their doors.

      • Mike

        Are you kidding me? Islam is more tolerated in the US when it comes to expressing their rights then christianity it seems.

        • Anonymouse

          Not really, All Religion seems to be under attack now days.
          but it may seem so since there aren’t that many reported incidents, most offended people resolve similar situations without the general public finding out. Under reporting creates skewed bias.

  • Lawrence Westlake

    Headlines to blog posts are windows into a lot of things, mostly dissonance and de facto or actual ADHD. Does one teacheer = a school? That aside, the moral of the main story here is that bad demographics = Idiocracy. Public K-12 teachers sure aren’t the brightest bulbs in the display case. Public school unions are to education what crack cocaine is to mental health. Inner city blacks and other racial minorities now have become a permanent underclass. Public money school districts in places like Broward County, Fla. are cesspools of left-wing social engineering, which ultimately leads to unemployment and unemployability. Rinse, repeat. This is how a 1st world nation within mere decades devolves into a 3rd world banana republic.

    • Lawrence Westlake comments on blog posts are the blitherings of an idiot, full of sound and petulance, signifying nothing.

      • Walter_Cronanty

        Rodney, I apologize for “tsk, tsking” you on a previous thread for inviting Larry to open his veins.

    • jim_m

      When a teacher acts in their capacity as a teacher they are acting on behalf of the school, so yes, one teacher = one school.

    • Walter_Cronanty

      CONGRATULATIONS Mr. Westlake! You have wrested the coveted title of “Supercilious Twit” from the grasp of Brucehenry. I’m sure your reign will be long and of little note.

      • Brucehenry


        • Walter_Cronanty

          Sorry Bruce, but Larry’s repeated use of the phrase “bad demographics = Idiocracy” is just too much for you to overcome.

          • Brucehenry

            Sorry to you guys, too. I up-voted Westlake a couple of times. Up-voting has consequences.

          • jim_m

            Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

          • Walter_Cronanty

            Now that made me laugh out loud.

          • Brucehenry

            I’ll be here all week

          • jim_m

            Just what is that phrase supposed to mean anyway?

          • Walter_Cronanty

            I have no idea – and I refuse to spend any more time trying to figure it out.

      • Isn’t that supposed to be an ‘a’ as opposed to an ‘i’?

        • Walter_Cronanty

          No, that would be Candy Crowley.

  • Our liberties are under attack on so many fronts! I do feel it wasn’t necessary to mention the race of the teacher, though. Fascists come in all shapes, sizes and races.

  • Paul Hooson

    Ok, if you can’t pray in school, then is it legal to do your homework while you’re in church? I know some people have been stopped for eating while driving (for being a distracted driver), and it’s certainly illegal to drive while you’re in a restaurant. – Maybe the problem just comes down to certain things are best done at an appropriate time.

    • It’s very difficult to eat a double burrito one-handed while driving. Steaks work fairly well, though they tend to get messy, as does spaghetti and meatballs.

  • Brucehenry
    • jim_m

      It’s satire Bruce. Or did you know that?

      • Brucehenry

        Yes and many of them owned slaves, and many more of them never intended that slaves be freed.

        Just because the Founders opened their own meetings with prayer doesn’t mean we still should.

        You don’t have to be anti-religious to think government bodies shouldn’t open meetings with a Christian prayer. You just need a little empathy for people who are slightly different from you.

        • jim_m

          I’m just saying that it isn’t the end of the world. What is apparent from your response to me is that you failed to detect that the New Yorker article was satire despite the notice at the bottom of the page.

          • Brucehenry

            I get the Borowitz Report daily. I’m aware it’s satire, genius. The SC ruling, however, really happened.

          • jim_m

            The ruling was very reasonable. It points out that it does not establish a religion to allow various people from various faiths to deliver an invocation. It points out that the constitution does not require the elimination of religion from public life.

            The problem with you and other anti-religious bigots (and yes, you are being a bigot here) is that you really do demand that religion have no place in public life. That is counter to the original intent of the constitution and is counter to the nature of any man with religious belief.

            The fact of the mater is that you and your ilk will never be satisfied until all religious expression in public is made illegal. (well, all except islamic expression because you are too cowardly to stand up to them).

            You intolerance of religion is mockable. You understand that the article is satire but you actually take its premise quite seriously. If there were any evidence necessary to demonstrate your bigoted hate it is that self admission alone.

          • Brucehenry

            Off the deep end goes Jim, arguing with his pet strawman, “Bruce.”

            The linked article is indeed satire. My point in posting it was, one, it was funny; two, there was a Supreme Court ruling yesterday involving church/state issues but Warner chose to focus on this kooky teacher and her misguided and pathetic power trip instead.

            There will probably be public Christian prayers at government meetings for many years to come as there have been in the past. As in the past, those attending who are not Christians might be discomfited a little, and a little irritated. That was no problem when 99.5% of the population was either Christian or too chickenshit to publicly acknowledge their non-belief. Now that a larger percentage of folks are either religious non-Christians or non-believers, it’s becoming problematic.

            So go ahead and enjoy this petty little “tyranny of the majority” for a couple more decades, Jim. It ain’t that big a thing, and it’ll go the way of the poll tax and Jim Crow in your lifetime, unless that vein in your forehead bursts while you’re typing one of your mouth-foaming blog comments first.

          • JWH

            I read the ruling, too. My own thoughts:

            1) I don’t think city councils, or any government body for that matter, should open their meetings with prayer. It’s inherently exclusionary and it unnecessarily mixes religious rhetoric with government function.

            2) I hold a minority view. Most people want to open their city council meetings with an invocation. I am unlikely to persuade them to change their minds.

            3) In general, these invocations are perfunctory and nonsubstantive and they have little bearing on the legislative body’s business.

            4) A short, perfunctory invocation at a legislative meeting does not have the coercive effect of, say, a government official leading children in prayer in a school setting, or a situation in which government force is used to coerce adults into religious ritual.

            5) As long as the prayers are not used to evangelize or condemn members of other faiths, and as long as all religions (including secularists) in a community are given a chance to offer invocations (and participation is optional), I see little harm in starting a legislative body’s meeting.

            6) If a city council member or other government official denies services to somebody because that person refused to pray or is of a minority faith, there are laws that deal with that (and quite harshly, I might add).

            7) Legislative prayer is not a big deal. Atheist groups ought to spend their time on more substantive matters.

          • Brucehenry

            You are right on all counts.

          • jim_m

            You’re entitled to think that. You’re wrong, but you are entitled to be wrong. And the main reason that you are wrong in #1 is because you are right in #’s 2-7.

          • Anonymouse

            I must disagree somewhat I think Islam would be under threat to, perhaps after Christianity but before Judaism and Hinduism. then we shall find ourselves in places like these:

        • Ken in Camarillo

          It is fine to have the opinion that “we shouldn’t open our own meetings with prayer.” However, it is ignorant to think that it is unconstitutional when the people who wrote and ratified the constitution followed this practice throughout their lives.

  • 914

    Common core garbage is just as corrupt as ObamaCrapCare.

  • disqus_rybrjIFQ9F

    1 ignorant teacher tells a student they cannot read bible better make that plural to imply we are under attack

    • Thanks for sharing so much of the clearly limited resource which passes for your mind…

      • disqus_rybrjIFQ9F

        “limited” Lol ever heard of the internet? I have access to almost anything and I ALWAYS check sources so thanks for your passive aggresive comment.

      • disqus_rybrjIFQ9F

        I looked at your post history and it appears you are nothing but a troll. Bashing everyone else’s opinion while having not one original thought of your own.

        • Anonymouse

          isn’t the “troll” a moderator?

  • Sandy R. Killgo

    Really people? Do we really want a young child to read a bible verse such as this:

    You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 NRSV).
    Is this really about religion or politics? Divine creator created the universe long before religion or politics was even man-made by mankind in their ignorance and duality.

    • Anonymouse

      where’s that from sounds interesting.