A South Florida elementary school teacher banned “religious books” in her classroom and told a fifth-grade student that he couldn’t read his Bible during “free reading” time, according to a release by conservative legal group Liberty Institute.
Park Lakes Elementary School teacher Swornia D. Thomas reportedly reprimanded student Giovanni Rubeo for bringing his Bible to class, according to the Institute. She then then ordered him to hand the Bible over and “get his father on the phone,” the nonprofit said.
In a voice mail left for the boy’s father, Paul Rubeo, Mrs. Thomas explained: “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, and have a wonderful day. Bye-bye.”
In a letter to Broward County Public Schools, Liberty Institute attorneys argue that Mrs. Thomas’s actions violate the Establishment Clause, the Free Speech Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
On behalf of the Rubeos, the group vowed to take legal action if the school district fails within 10 days to respond with an apology and agreement to permit students to read religious books during free reading times.
“We expect Broward County Public School officials to resolve this unfortunate incident quickly and amicably,” said attorney Jeremy Dys. “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.”