DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. – A mother in the Detroit area is alleging that school officials told her 8-year-old autistic son to stop bringing his Bible to class.
Jessica Cross of Dearborn Heights told WJBK that her autistic son, Jason, would frequently take his Bible to Highview Elementary. According to his mother, Jason enjoyed reading his Bible during free times at school.
However, as reported by WJBK, school officials reprimanded Jason for bringing the Bible to school, telling him, “it’s only for church—not school.” Jason was then told not to bring his Bible to class anymore.
Cross said that she was shocked by the school’s censure of her son’s Bible, but told reporters that it was not the first time she has been disappointed with how school officials have treated Jason.
“Putting my son in time outs for 13 hours a week and refusing him lunch, and just absurd things,” she stated. “If I did something like that, I’d lose my kids!”
Cross has repeatedly met with school officials in recent months to discuss their treatment of her son, but she claims that officials have not been helpful.
“We’ve done meetings. We’ve met together, and whenever we all get in the same room together, then they just lie,” Cross says.
According to Highview Elementary’s Code of Conduct manual, discrimination on the basis of religion is unacceptable.
“[I]t is the policy of [the school district],” the manual states, “that no person shall, on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender, martial [sic] status, disability, or limited English proficiency be discriminated against, excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or otherwise subjected to, discrimination in any program, activity, [or] service.”
This is not the first time public schools in the Detroit area have drawn criticism for controversial handling of religious activities. In 2009, school officials in nearby Roseville heeded the advice of an Islamic advocacy group by forbidding the distribution of Bible study permission slips to students.
But as previously reported, Dearborn Public Schools announced last year that Muslim students would be allowed private prayer times during school hours and weekly unexcused absences to observe Friday prayers.
“So Muslims can conduct religious activities within a public school,” one education expert weighed in, “but Christians can’t go off-site to receive voluntary Bible lessons? What’s wrong with this picture? Is political correctness accommodating such hypocrisy?”
Following a public furor over Highview Elementary’s treatment of Jason’s Bible, the school district superintendent, Dr. Laurine VanValkenburg, told reporters that she understands Cross’s frustration and promised to not ban Bible reading again.
“If a child wants to bring a Bible to school, they may,” she said.
However, despite the superintendent’s statement, many still argued that the school’s handling of the situation was outrageous.
“That crosses the line when they tell you what you or your child can or can’t read,” one commenter stated.
“I remember being in public high school and the Bible as literature was offered as a class,” another recalled. “So much for it being ‘for church and not for school.’ It looks like this autistic student is able to read above his grade level if he’s reading the Bible, and his teacher isn’t encouraging him.”