Broward student told not to read Bible in classroom - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Broward student told not to read Bible in classroom

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LAUDERDALE LAKES, Fla. (WSVN) -- A South Florida student says he wanted to read the Bible during some free time, but what the teacher did next has his family furious.

Fifth grader Giovanni Rubeo said he pulled out his Bible for free reading time at Park Lakes Elementary School on April 8. "Then, she said, 'Giovanni, what book is that?'" he said.

He said the teacher asked him twice to put the Bible on her desk, but he refused. "Then, she told me to get my dad on the phone," said Rubeo.

The teacher left Rubeo's father a voice mail: "Good morning, Mr. Rubeo, Mrs. Thomas. Giovanni called you because I asked him to. I noticed that he has a book, a religious book in the classroom. He is not permitted to read those books in my classroom. He said if I told him to put it away you would say not to do that. So please give me a call, I need to have some understanding on direction to him about the book he's reading as opposed to the curriculum for public schools. Mrs. S. Thomas. Thank you. Have a wonderful day. Bye-bye."

Paul Rubeo defended his child. "Any parent wants to protect their child, and there comes a point in life where you have to stand up for what's right and what's wrong," said Paul, "and when someone's civil rights and constitutional rights are being violated, and that happens to be your child, I'm sure that any one of you would do that for someone you love."

The district sent a letter on April 16 saying students have the right to read religious materiel before or after class. Additionally, they put out a statement on May 5 which read: "Broward County Public Schools respects and upholds the rights of students to bring personal religious materiel to school including the Bible and to read these items before school, after school or during any free reading time during the school day. This information has been communicated to the parents of the student involved in this situation."

Liberty Institute, an advocacy group said its mission is to restore religious liberty across the U.S., and they and the family want an apology. Liberty Institute attorney Jeremy Dys said, "When a teacher goes to the length of calling a student to the front of the class and calling his parents while students looked on and leaving this voice mail that says, 'Hey, look you can't read religious books in my classroom,' that is a gross violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution."

"I want the school to send me an apology and let me read my Bible in free reading time," said Giovanni.

The attorney for the family said if the district tries to ignore or dismiss the situation, they will be prepared to file a lawsuit.

It is unclear if Rubeo will receive an apology.

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