Indiana public school punishes 7-year-old with ‘banishment’ for not believing in God: lawsuit

( This is a guest post by Volokh Conspiracy originally posted on Washington Post )

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A lawsuit recently filed against a teacher at Forest Park Elementary School in Indiana alleged that a 7-year-old student was “banished” from sitting with other students at lunch after he revealed that he did not believe in God.

According to the lawsuit obtained by The Washington Post, second grade teacher Michelle Myer interrogated the student, who was identified with the initials A.B., about his religious beliefs after he told his classmates on the playground that he did not go to church because he did not believe in God.

As a result, the child was ordered to sit by himself during lunch for a three-day period.

“The defendant’s actions caused great distress to A.B. and resulted in the child being ostracized by his peers past the three-day ‘banishment.’”

“Ms. Meyer asked A.B. if he had told the girl that he did not believe in God and A.B. said he had and asked what he had done wrong,” the lawsuit explained. “Ms. Meyer asked A.B. if he went to church, whether his family went to church, and whether his mother knew how he felt about God… She also asked A.B. if he believed that maybe God exists.”

Several days later, Meyer sent A.B. to talk to another adult at the school, who “reinforced his feeling that he had done something very wrong,” the lawsuit said.

“On the day of the incident and for an additional two days thereafter, Ms. Meyer required that A.B. sit by himself during lunch and told him he should not talk to the other students and stated that this was because he had offended them.This served to reinforce A.B.’s feeling that he had committed some transgression that justified his exclusion.”

“A.B. came home from school on multiple occasions crying saying that he knows that everyone at school – teachers and students – hate him,” the suit continued. “Even now A.B. remains anxious and fearful about school, which is completely contrary to how he felt before this incident.

”The lawsuit is seeking damages and attorneys’ fees.
In a statement, the school district suggested that the teacher had been wrong to single out the child.
“It is clear that it is not the province of a public school to advance or inhibit religious beliefs or practices. Under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, this remains the inviolate province of the individual and the church of his/her choice,” the district declared. “The rights of any minority, no matter how small, must be protected.”

Brought To You By Sikandar Kumar Mehta
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