By Liz (Flickr: Teams and overview) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Liz (Flickr: Teams and overview) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A second grader is told he’s unacceptable, has bad ideas, and is instructed not to speak or have lunch with fellow students after saying he didn’t believe in God.

In February this year, a second grader, referred to as A.B., at Forest Park Elementary in Fort Wayne was publicly shamed, humiliated and isolated for answering a simple question with honesty. He and other classmates were playing when a girl asked if he went to church. He responded that he didn’t as he didn’t believe in a God, however it was fine if she chose to believe. The girl was immediately offended, and began to cry. The playground supervisor took notice, and told A.B’s teacher, who promptly arrived to see what the problem was. It sounds like the typical way for these instances to go, however what she did next was completely wrong.

The complaint filed against the school provides total detail, aside from the children’s names and the name of A.B’s mother, who is provided anonymity to protect the child from further potential harm. In complete violation of the First Amendment, as well as in an act that told other classmates and A.B. that he was not acceptable, the teacher asked questions about his and his family’s faiths. In addition, the teacher then told the child that he couldn’t speak to anyone or have lunch with anyone for three days following the incident. She claimed that she was “concerned” with what he said and that she would talk to his mother, however she never contacted his mother. These initial reactions caused A.B. to feel as though he had committed a crime.

After a couple of days, A.B. and the girl he had offended were sent to another adult in Forest Park Elementary. Once A.B. explained what happened, the adult told the girl that A.B had bad ideas and she should be happy she has faith. Yet another reinforcement that he had done wrong and warranted punishment. A.B’s mother had to call and demand that the school not punish her child for his beliefs, after which all restrictions were lifted. By then, all his classmates knew what happened and few were willing to interact with him. There have not been any efforts to correct the harm caused to A.B, who has since been afraid to return to school and had feelings that everyone in school hated him.

The school district released a statement that didn’t apologize for their actions, but rather stated that rights must be protected. Though the court has yet to reach a final decision, they did refuse to release further information on the mother to prevent “risk to A.B’s health and safety” as it is a “suit that involves religion and public schools – a topic that ‘has tendency to inflame unreasonably some people’ in most communities, including Fort Wayne”.

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