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California school backs down in a battle for religious freedom with a seven-year old

Palmdale, California Photo: Jamesb01/Wikipedia

Palmdale, California Photo: Jamesb01/Wikipedia

A young student who is referred to as ‘C’ is a grade one student at Desert Rose Elementary School in Palmdale, California. Last school term, the school that is part of the Palmdale School District called in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office because C, who is only seven-years old, was distributing Bible verses and stories written out on paper with his classmates.

The problems surfaced last spring, when C’s mother, Christine Zavala routinely included Bible verses and encouraging notes while packing her son’s lunch.

C who enjoyed the notes began to share them with his fellow classmates.

Afters some of the students requested notes of their own, Christine included verses and even some Bible stories for the other children. The Santa Monica Observer (SMO) wrote that the problems surfaced when in April one of the students told the class teacher about the stories stating “this is the most beautiful story I’ve ever seen.”

Now aware of what was going on, the teacher stepped in and told C he was not allowed to share these verses in school and according to SMO even publicly rebuked C in front of the class.

The teacher then phoned the Zavala family telling them that this activity was in violation of the separation of “church and state.” The teacher told C’s parents that their son could not discuss his religious views at school or distribute the notes.

Mr and Mrs Zavala told the teacher they were not convinced of the school’s interpretation of the constitution.

However, when the school said that C would only be allowed to share the verses and stories at the school gate after classes were over, the Zavala’s agreed.

For a few days everything seemed fine with upwards of 15 students showing up to receive their notes after class.

On May 9, 2016, the school again approached Mr. Zvala who was picking up C after school telling him that C would now only be allowed to share the notes on the public sidewalk off school property.

The two complied with the school’s request and moved to the sidewalk to continue handing out notes to any students requesting them.

Meanwhile, school officials had also contacted the LA county sheriff’s department to complain about C’s activity.

An officer showed up at the family home shortly after they got back from school that same day. He told the Zavalas their son was no longer allowed to share his notes at all because it might offend some people.

At this point, the family contacted Liberty Counsel (LC) for assistance. Started in 1989, Liberty Counsel is a charity, with a litigation component, dedicated to preserving Christian liberties  and constitutional rights in America.

LC sent a letter to the school informing them that C is allowed to exercise his right of ‘freedom of speech’ at public schools and this even includes distribution of materials.

With the start of the new school year just days away, LC reached an agreement with the Palmdale School Board’s legal department preserving C’s religious liberties.

Outside of instructional times, C is allowed to verbally share his religious views with fellow classmates. Christina can continue sending notes in her son’s lunch and C can discuss these notes with his fellow students during “non-instructional” times.

‘C’ is also allowed to distribute notes to the other students on the sidewalk outside the school.


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