The teacher was wrong, but the parents are crazy
New Jersey is in the national news again, this time for making a third grader cry during free reading time.
A teacher at Madison Park Elementary School in Old Bridge told Mariah to put away her Bible, that it wasn’t appropriate free-time reading material. The kid cried, the parents screamed and the principal apologized, saying, rightly, that the teacher had made a mistake, that the Bible was allowable.
Sounds like a typical day in suburbia to me: crying kids, screaming parents and apologizing school officials. The teacher was wrong, and she/he (identity withheld by officials) should’ve asked. But the parents went to Fox News, and the Associated Press picked it up. And now it’s not typical, it’s a scandal.
It has to be confusing as an educator to know for sure what’s allowable and what’s not. There’s still a banned books list in most states, and confusion over the division of church and state is a frequent newsmaker.
If the Bible is allowed, that means the Koran is too? Who knows. How about the Torah and the Way of the Buddha, and maybe even an atheists handbook? A Bible on public school grounds just opens up all kinds of what-ifs for a public school teacher.
The teacher should’ve known, or asked, just because in this instance it’s not a state decision, but national. The U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Department of Education have assured that students are free to express their religious views while at school, and this extends to religious materials. Done. Easy. Teacher erred; apology given. It won’t happen again.
But the parents went on the news, freely gave out their daughter’s name and offered up that she cried and was confused (normally schools keep a child’s identity under lock and key). How is this kid not scarred for life? She’ll always be known as the crybaby bookworm. Her bully classmates won’t even remember what she was reading; just that she cried because her book was taken away.
Perhaps I’m not religiously-sensitive enough and that’s why I don’t understand the parent’s reaction, or even the teacher’s. I feel like the teacher should be happy kids are actually reading during free reading time (it’s not porn? Awesome! Carry on.) and I’m surprised he/she said anything. Though I get it; NJ is very PC. Bibles in a public school? Suspect.
The parents, however, need to chill. Is running to Fox News the answer? Is that what the Bible teaches? They have a lawyer. They want everything in writing.
Me? If my kid reads anything I’m happy. Carry on.