A Florida school teacher humiliated a 12-year-old boy in front of an entire class after she caught him reading the Bible during free reading time.
The teacher, at Park Lakes Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, ordered Giovanni Rubeo to pick up the telephone on her desk and call his parents.
As the other students watched, the teacher left a terse message on the family’s answering machine.
“I noticed that he has a book – a religious book – in the classroom,” she said on the recording. “He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.”
The Liberty Institute, a legal firm that specializes in religious liberty issues, is now representing the Rubeo family. They are demanding that Giovanni be allowed to read his Bible during free reading time. They also want the school to issue a written apology to the boy.
“This is the most shocking piece of evidence I’ve seen in the 12 years of religious liberty work that I’ve been doing,” said Hiram Sasser, the Liberty Institute’s director of litigation.
I reached out to the superintendent of Broward County Schools as well as the chairman of the school board. Neither returned my messages.
Last Christmas Giovanni received a Bible from his local church. It quickly became a prized possession and one of his favorite books to read.
“I love reading my Bible any time that I’m allowed to read it,” the boy told me in a telephone conservation.
So that’s why Giovanni brought his Bible to school -- to read his Bible during a 90-minute session designated for free reading.
In February and March, the boy’s teacher ordered him to stop reading his Bible. During those instances, the child complied with his teacher’s demands. But, when his father discovered what happened, he began investigating and determined the school was violating his son’s Constitutional rights.
From that point on, Rubeo told his son that if his teacher or anyone else at the school told him he could not read his Bible during free reading time, he was to politely ask the teacher to call home.
And that’s what happened on April 8. When the children pulled out their books, the teacher immediately targeted Giovanni.
“When I was reading my Bible, she said, ‘Giovanni, what book is that?’ I was a little afraid,” he told me. “She told me to put it on her desk and I said no.”