APPLE VALLEY (AP) — A Southern California school district will allow students to hand out Bible coins on campus, saying teachers who banned them violated the children’s rights of free expression.
“We’re going to make sure that students are protected,” Thomas Hoegerman, superintendent of the Apple Valley Unified School District, told the San Bernardino Sun on Monday. “There was no malicious intent but we clearly had folks who didn’t fully understand the implications.”
For more than a year, four sons from a single family handed out the coins during recess at Desert Knolls Elementary School in Apple Valley,
The plastic coins quote John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”) and John 3:36 (“Where will you spend eternity?”).
But in January and February, a teacher barred the distribution and another took the coins out of Valentine’s Day goodie bags given out by one boy.
Freedom X, a Los Angeles-based group that says its mission is to protect “the expressive rights of Christians and conservatives,” sent a letter last month notifying the district of the ban.
The district investigated and in a 43-page report concluded that the teachers had suppressed the children’s First Amendment rights.
The report recommends that teachers and staff at Desert Knolls permit the coins to be distributed in a “non-disruptive manner” outside of class and during non-instructional time.
The children’s father, Allen Peterson said he will allow his sons to bring the coins to school again next week.
“I’m glad that they were willing to admit they made a mistake,” he told the Sun. “It’s freedom of speech more than anything else, you know.”