Kendra Turner, a high school senior in Dyer County, TN, received an in-school suspension for saying "Bless you" after a classmate sitting next to her sneezed. On Monday, August 18, she wrote on her facebook page, "Today my teacher sent me to the office because someone sneezed and I said bless you. She said we do not do Godly speaking in my class. I stood up for my belief and said I have a constitutional right to speak about my God!! So if any other teacher wants to get on to me for sticking up for my religion then go right ahead because in the end I will win because I'm doing what God wants me to do!!!"
I would imagine that just about everyone in the civilized world would agree that the teacher overreacted when she disciplined Kendra for saying "Bless you." However, it is not as though the teacher responded without thinking or reprimanded Kendra because she was speaking when the class was supposed to be silent. "Bless you" is apparently an officially banned phrase in her class. Another student took a photo of the words the teacher forbids students to use in class.
THE BIGGER ISSUE
The real issue illustrated by this ridiculous incident involves the overall climate of censorship that now pervades too many public schools. Many teachers operate under the false assumptions that their classrooms must be "religion-free zones." Not only do they think they cannot talk about religion, they erroneously think they cannot allow their students to talk about it either.
The issue isn't about changing a law -- students already have freedom of speech to express their faith (or as this teacher apparently calls it "Godly speaking"). The real issue is changing the overall climate of schools regarding religion so students and teachers exercise their religious and academic freedom.
That's where Gateways to Better Education can help. Our professional development seminar for public school educators explains the religious freedoms that the law already allows. Our seminar also shows educators how to create a faith-friendly environment in their schools and what the research says about how it will improve academic achievement. We also show educators how to lawfully teach about the influence of the Bible and Christianity as they relate to history, culture, and values. Educators don't just need to be informed about the law, they need to change the way they address religion -- and specifically Christianity.
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