McCordsville, Ind. — An elementary school teacher in Indiana recently sent home a classroom update to parents that included a request to tell their children not to talk about “God, Jesus and [the] devil” at school.
The McCordsville Elementary School teacher, whose name has not been made public, sent the request on Aug. 23 after hearing an estimated five first-graders debating among themselves about the existence of God and the devil. She said that she addressed the children about it, but the subject matter later came up again.
“With McCordsville Elementary being a public school, we have many different religions and beliefs, and I do not want to upset a child/parent because of these words being used,” the teacher wrote to parents. “If you go to church or discuss these things at home, please have a talk with your child about there being an appropriate time and place of talking about it.”
However, several of those parents soon contacted the school, concerned that their child’s free speech was being curtailed.
“There were a handful of parents that contacted us,” Mt. Vernon Schools Superintendent Shane Robbins told the Indianapolis Star. “They were offended that we were trying to quiet their children.”
He said that the teacher is fairly new—in her second year—and wasn’t completely educated on district policies surrounding the religious expression of students, nor did she speak to the principal before including the request in the classroom update for parents. The matter is now being discussed with the teacher.
Robbins said in a statement that the district allows students the liberty to discuss what they wish as long as it does not disrupt the learning environment.
“Trying to limit a student’s view on religion is a violation of a student’s First Amendment rights,” he outlined. “However, if the discussion becomes an academic disruption, then as a district, we can intervene to maintain the integrity of the educational process while at the same time being sure to not violate a student’s constitutional rights.”
“It is the position of the Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation to respect the diversity of our students. In doing so, we will address sensitive topics with compassion while maintaining the integrity of our academic environment,” Robbins stated. “I believe this was a learning experience and an opportunity for us to improve as a school district.”
As previously reported, in 1647, the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed “The Old Deluder Satan Act,” which required that children be taught to read so they could learn to read the Bible.
“In being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, … and that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers in Church and Commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors, it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof, that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read,” it read in part.
The first textbook used in the American colonies even before the nation’s founding, “The New England Primer,” was largely focused on the Scriptures, and was stated to be popular in public and private schools alike until approximately the early 1900’s. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.
“Save me, O God, from evil all this day long, and let me love and serve Thee forever, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Thy Son,” it read.