Apology, Training Demanded After Bible in Class Controversy

Grandparents of a La Costa HS student are demanding an apology and staff training on First Amendment issues following a dispute over a Bible in class

The grandparents of a La Costa Heights Elementary School student are demanding additional training and an apology from school officials after a dispute over the use of the Bible in class.

Noah McMahon, a special needs student with Down syndrome, has attended the school since 2009 under an individualized education program.

In November, his grandparents Craig and Lori Nordal asked his teachers to allow Noah to bring his Bible for his reading period.

The Nordals say their grandson was denied the ability to read his Bible in class.

The Encinitas Union School District Superintendent Timothy B. Baird has denied the allegation.

After several weeks, the issue has been resolved and Noah has been able to bring the Bible in for independent reading.

However, his grandparents say they want to see teachers trained on First Amendment rights and are demanding an apology from the district.

“How EUSD has handled this situation has set a very poor example for the more than 5,000 students in the district,” the couple says in a letter from the National Center for Law and Policy, a conservative nonprofit law firm. “As public servants, EUSD should do the right thing here and apologize.”

Baird said that at no time did any staff member deny Noah the right to bring the Bible to school and read it during free time.

Instead, Baird says the grandparents were asking the teacher to use the Bible as a main teaching tool, which the district told them they could not do because the book did not fall into the specific curricular tools used for Noah’s educational goals.

The district said it's unsure why this continues to be an issue and released a statement saying in part, "Noah was able to bring his Bible to school and read it during free choice reading time."

"He has always had this right and continues to have this right," the statement reads.

The NCLP memo demands an apology be issued within 10 days and training be administered to staff within 90 days.

This is not the first legal dispute between the National Center for Law and Policy and the EUSD.

Last year, the center filed a civil rights lawsuit against the district’s city-wide yoga curriculum, calling it “inherently and pervasively religious.” A San Diego judge later ruled in favor of the EUSD, but it is currently being appealed.

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