California School District Backs Down From Censoring First Grader

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Mary Lou Lang Contributor
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A California school district has backed down from censoring a first grader and has now agreed the student can share Bible verses with his classmates on school property during non-instructional time.

The Palmdale School District initially told the seven-year-old student, identified as “C”, he could only share the Bible verses after the school bell rang and only at the school gate. After he and his family complied, the student was told he could only hand out notes on the public sidewalk far from the exit of the school.

Even though C and his family agreed to comply to the second directive, a Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff then came to the Zavalas family home and said C must stop sharing the notes because “someone might be offended,” according to Liberty Counsel, which agreed to represent the family against the school district.

“We celebrate this victory that acknowledges that students have constitutional rights to free speech to distribute literature during non-instructional times,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, in a prepared statement on Monday. “Now this young boy is free to share his Bible verses and stories with his classmates this year without hassle.”

The district’s legal counsel concluded in a letter that C may freely discuss his religious beliefs on the school campus during non-instructional time and his parents can continue to send the daily Bible verse with C in his lunchbox.

The letter also said the Zavalas family may distribute written material to anyone on any designated public forum, including a few feet away from the school gate.

The censorship began after children at the Palmdale School District wanted C to share the Bible verses with them. Other children even begged C for copies of the verses, and even wanted his short Bible stories that provided contest for the verses. When one little girl told her teacher, “This is the most beautiful story I’ve ever seen,” school officials banned the notes from lunchtime distribution, citing separation of church and state.