What’s a Buddhist sixth grader to do when his own public school teacher berates him for not being a Christian? Transfer, evidently. Despite a constitutional guarantee to religious freedom, young C.C. Lane in Sabine Parish, Louisiana found things so unbearable that he now travels 25 miles each day just to attend a school that is more tolerant of his beliefs, reports Raw Story.
To be clear, Lane has not been accused of trying to spread Buddhism to his fellow classmates. Instead, it was his teacher, Rita Roark, who is said to have gone above and beyond to push Christianity onto her student. When Lane’s parents complained about the harassment of their son, school officials suggested they convert faiths to solve the problem.
In light of the incident, the ACLU is taking up the family’s case by suing the Sabine Parish school district. Marjorie Esman, head of the organization in Louisiana, said, “Public schools should be welcoming places for students of all backgrounds. No child should be harassed and made to feel like an outsider in his own classroom, and students should not have to endure school officials constantly imposing their religious beliefs on them while they are trying to learn.”
As lawsuit documents detail, Roark told Lane he was “stupid” for not believing in God, trashed the Big Bang theory and insisted that the fact that apes haven’t turned into humans is proof that evolution is fake. On a test she gave to her students, Roark included the following question: “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE ___________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Yes, that’s thirty-two exclamation points, yet not a single question mark to conclude what appears to be a rhetorical question.) After he didn’t take the bait and fill in the blank with “Lord”, Roark berated him during class. Why it was relevant for a “science” teacher to ask this on a “science” test is still unclear.
Unfortunately, it seems like Roark is not an anomaly in her school. On the whole, the staff seems committed to making the public school a Christian institution. The school walls are covered with images of Jesus and teachers regularly lead their students in prayer. Even the electronic marquee in front of the building features a variety of Bible verses.
According to the parents, when they went to the superintendent, Sara Ebarb, to address the larger problems, Ebarb reminded them they lived in the Bible belt. She recommended that if they weren’t willing to become Christians that they should move to another school district with “more Asians.”
Clearly the Sabine County schools have overstepped their authority, so now they will face the wrath of the ACLU in court. Remarkably, the school system could have probably gotten away with establishing a very Christian atmosphere if it didn’t also decide to bully one of the only kids of a different faith in attendance. By not demonstrating any amount of tolerance, however, the school officials basically necessitated a lawsuit to make a change.
Lane is probably not alone in this predicament either. Last year, the state of Louisiana decided to fix its failing public education system by offering parents vouchers to nearby private schools instead. Many of these schools are private religious institutions, meaning that other Buddhist (or just non-Christian) students may find themselves with little choice to sit through classes that criticize homosexuality and evolution, and that tax payer dollars are paying for this “privilege.”
Angry? Sign this petition to ask Sabine Parish school officials to apologize to C.C. Lane.