February 16, 2012

Sheboygan child's valentines not permitted: Christian message

Does our Constitution say a school should be able to stop a child from sending a valentine with a Bible verse about love in it? James Madison School in Sheboygan did not allow a second grader to pass out his home-made valentines to his classmates because they included a Christian message about love.

The principal was concerned that the other kids were expecting a secular valentine, and did not "have a choice" to receive this student's message or not. But the school never posted or notified parents they could not make home-made cards or include messages about how they thought about love. I think this principle handled the situation very poorly.

The boy (and his disabled siblings at Madison School) should have been allowed to distribute their cards to their classmates because of this country's tradition of free speech. If the other kids or their parents didn't like the message, they could throw it out. After all, this is America. And yes, I would let kids from other religions (Muslim, Buddhist, etc.) do the same if it was about love on Valentine's Day. It could be a teaching moment, to talk about the different definitions of love, rather than sanitize the classroom and school!

(And by the way, the child's brother, who attends Lake Country Academy — a Sheboygan Area School District charter school — was allowed to hand out his identical Christian valentines without a hitch.)

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