Saturday, December 22, 2018

W.Va. mom says her daughter was bullied after they balked at Bible classes in public school

Dec. 22, 2018 / 8:11 AM EST
By Corky Siemaszko

The chill set in not long after word got out that Elizabeth Deal’s little girl was not taking the Bible class at her West Virginia public grammar school.

Her daughter, Jessica Roe, then a first-grader, felt it first.

When her teacher and the pastor who ran that class realized they didn’t have a permission slip for Jessica Roe to attend, they placed her and another girl who wasn’t enrolled in the county's Bible in the Schools program in a coat closet and gave them iPads “to amuse themselves" during the 30-minute class, Deal said.

In the days and weeks that followed, Jessica Roe brought books from home when she was dispatched to the library or computer lab to sit, mostly by herself, while her classmates were in the Bible program, her mother said.


When Jessica Roe was in third grade, the bullying began, Deal charged in a lawsuit she and another family filed in January 2017 against the Mercer County Public Schools, with the help of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which advocates for the separation of church and state.

“The kids started telling her that she and her family were all going to hell,” Deal said. “One girl saw the Harry Potter book that Jessica Roe was reading and slammed it down on her desk. ‘You don’t need to be reading this witch magic stuff, you should be reading The Bible,’ she yelled.”


“This isn’t about me saying you’re wrong because you’re Christian,” Deal said. “I am for anything that makes someone a better person. … But part of freedom of religion is separating church and state.”


Deal said that while her daughter was punished by her peers almost right away, “there was no real blowback for me until I joined the lawsuit.”

“It’s not like anybody got in my face or threatened me,” she said. “But there were plenty of comments on the local newspaper Facebook page, things like: I hope Elizabeth Deal can feel the flames of hell licking at her feet.”

Deal said claims by defenders of the program that they were just teaching about the Bible and not proselytizing “are just not true.”

“Lesson 1 instructs students to listen to the directions and warnings that are given in the Bible and to follow them in their own lives,” Deal and the other parent stated in their complaint.


Deal said she is not against religion, and her family celebrates Christmas as a time of giving. "There's just no need to have this in the schools," she said.

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