Tags: Florida | Bible | school | ban

Florida Schools Boss Apologizes for Classroom Bible Ban

By Drew MacKenzie   |   Wednesday, 07 May 2014 11:51 AM

A Florida schools superintendent has apologized to a fifth-grade student who was banned by his teacher from reading the Bible in the classroom, while disputing claims that it was a "free reading" period.

Giovanni Rubeo, 12, started to read his Bible during a period at the Park Lakes Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale when students were allegedly allowed to read a book of their choice, according to the Miami Herald.

But when his teacher Swornia Thomas noticed that he was reading a religious book, she told him to put it away. Rubeo then asked the teacher to call his father, Paul Rubeo, about what had taken place.

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The Herald reported that Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie has now apologized to Rubeo while stating that "this is a situation that should’ve been handled differently."

"This does not represent the values of our school system," he said, according to the Herald. "This was an isolated incident at the school."

However, the Broward school district has disputed claims that it was a "free reading" period, stating that Rubeo wasn’t allowed to read the Bible because there was an "accelerated reading" program taking place at the time.

If it had been a "free reading" session going on, Bible reading would have been permitted, said officials, according to the Herald.

The controversy has attracted national attention, with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin calling the incident an "epic failure" by the school and saying that the Bible ban violated Rubeo’s constitutional rights.

She said on her Facebook page, "Hopefully concerned citizens will take a stand and tell you exactly that. Your school families deserve much, much better."

The issue has further been fueled by a voicemail left by Thomas for Rubeo’s father on the day of the incident last month, in which she said, "I noticed that he has a book — a religious book in the classroom. He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom."

Earlier this year, Rubeo had reportedly been told not to read his Bible during free reading time. But after his father researched the case, he told his son to read his Bible if he wanted to and to have his teacher call him if he was ordered to put it away.

The Liberty Institute, a conservative Texas-based legal group, has taken up the case, which is similar to other battles it has brought against schools across the country.

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