Student Rights Simplified

On April 20, 2010 I was ministering to a group of children in an elementary school Bible club when suddenly I was blindsided by the comment made by a child.  I was teaching kids on the Great Commission.  I wasn’t teaching them the typical “go give tickets to heaven to all of your friends” message, but rather a message of “live like kids who love and are loved by Jesus,” or some might call it lifestyle evangelism.  All of a sudden a little girl to my left raised her hand.  My custom is to gently tell the child to come talk to me afterwards because usually their comments will have nothing to do with what is being said.  Earlier this year while teaching on prayer, I acknowledged a little girl’s hand, “Yes Chloe” and very quietly from the back of the room she said, “Mr. Bob, you’re handsome”.  Thinking I didn’t hear her I said, “What was that?”  She responded louder, “YOU’RE HANDSOME”.  (This is why I don’t usually “take hands”, but for some reason on Tuesday I did -- and God educated me.

 The little girl said, “My cousin took her Bible to school and her teacher told her that she can’t bring her Bible to school.”  I barely got the words out, “That’s not right.”  And another child blurts out, “Everybody knows you can’t talk about God at school.”  Then another made a similar comment.  In my heart I heard my own quote “If you want to effect long term change, reach them while they are young.  You can ‘build’ men, but if you wait till they are teens, you are doing damage control.”  I was stunned, because I have never thought of teaching elementary age children about this.

I want to give you who are parents, grandparents and /or children’s pastors some simple points you can share with elementary age children about what is legal to say or do at school.  That is a good place to start with the difference between At/To or IN school.  You see “at/to” has to do with the school as a PUBLIC place one may go to, and “in” school refers to instructional time.  A child may take their Bible to school.  They may read it during “free” time, such as free reading time, lunch, before or after school.  The same is true of religious literature such as books, flyers for events, even tracts during free time.  A child may also share their faith during such a time. 

However, “in” school these things are not permissible with the exception of expressing an opinion in response to a topic in an open classroom setting.  A student has the right to express their opinion regardless of whether it is religious or not.  If a child bows their head and prays silently before a test or lunch, no school official can stop them.  However, a school official can not lead children to pray. 

The part that we (or any other religion) struggle with is that children of other religions have the same rights that CAN NOT be infringed on.  Students have first amendment rights as American citizens, regardless of age.  All too often an administrator infringes on a child’s rights out of fear or ignorance.  NOT BECAUSE THE ARE BIG BAD ADMINISTRATORS working for the big bad un-Godly Public school system as we have said in our churches and Christian television shows. In fact, it’s time we in the church stop promoting what I consider the biggest lie in America in the past 47 years.  More lawsuits have been caused and filed because this lie is so deeply ingrained in our society. 

Judges have ruled based on what they “knew” rather than law and constitutionality. 

I could lay out every detail of the law for you all, but just like the study of God’s word, I believe we all learn better if we study for ourselves.  What I have listed above is basics, simple enough for an elementary student to understand.  We have so much more freedom than most of us know.

I have written this in detail in my book, “How Are You Doing That?” available at the Kids for Christ USA website: http://www.kfcusa.org.  I went to great pains to put the law in simple terms.  Also on my website is a link to information on Student and Teacher Rights from The Rutherford Institute.  The website for The American Center for Law and Justice (www.aclj.org) has a very complete “Student Rights Briefing” under the tab “On The Issues”.  I would even recommend (believe it or not) a brochure on “The Bible and Prayer in Public Schools” on the website of the Americans for the Separation of Church and State.  This brochure is very balanced and frankly just a “good read”.  On Teacher’s Rights please go to Christian Educators Association International (www.ceai.org).  In fact, if you are a teacher you should seriously consider joining CEAI instead of the NEA.  Your interest as a believer is well served by this organization.  There is a wealth of information -- all you need to do is read.  FYI: I have included and summarized all of these in my book.

If you are unwilling to do any research for yourself, these keywords should help you understand the law with regard to God, The Bible and Prayer, and the schools:  At/to, in, Free Time, Instructional time, Voluntary, Mandatory, Neutrality. 

I want to thank all of you who expressed what you or your child’s experience has been.  I wanted to incorporate those into this, but I after reading, thinking and praying about it I felt simple pointers and quality sources to study for yourself seemed more fitting.  I encourage you to not only study for yourself, but share the truth with your children.  It is important that we as believers understand the law and not participate in spreading the “Big Lie” anymore. To date knowing the word and being carriers of God’s love has been limited by our ignorance in this area. This could quite possibly be the single most important thing we could do to impact changing the spiritual climate of America’s schools.


An "Open Letter to Vice President Biden"

(This came to us as a "Note for the Editor" of www.goodnewsdaily.net: The following is a letter we received from a 16-year-old, asking for our help in getting this message to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.)

Brandon Halcomb
A Concerned Christian Youth of Today's America

Dear Vice-President Joe Biden: 

Today is a sad day for my fellow Americans and me when such a powerful figure, such as yourself, could so loosely use the “F” word on national television. I know you have to understand the powerful influence you hold on children’s lives across the nation. As a junior in a public school in eastern Kentucky, it is hard enough to try to escape or get through the school day without hearing such perverse words from my own peers. However, to hear such a prominent man who helps hold our country in his hands blatantly use such a word makes me worry about my country’s morals and values. 

My grandfather did not have half the education you have, but he taught me three things: An intelligent person listens more than he speaks, he also never swears in front of women or children, and he always wears a shirt in public places, unless he’s at the beach or the swimming pool. My grandfather always said, “I know in a society where anything goes a young guy has to take a stand on something; if he doesn’t, he will fall for anything.” Although I am only sixteen, I do try to honor my deceased grandfather’s words of wisdom. 

Vice-President Biden, you have offended some of your fellow Americans, myself included. It was wrong for you to have used such vulgarity in a public place, let alone at the taxpayers expense as you celebrated such an awesome landmark with our President. However, Vice-President Biden, to me, you cheapened that occasion with such tastelessness while congratulating the President on this event. 

Many may say, I am so young what do I know? I know that I have grown up in a wonderful country that has tremendously changed throughout the years. Although I love the changes America has gone through with freedom, it frightens me to think of how weak Her morals and values are beginning to become. Vice-President Biden, you owe your fellow Americans, or at least its youth, an apology for the use of such an inappropriate word. I, for one, refuse to think that this is what has become of the English Language, especially when there are more powerful words and ways to get one’s point across. 

In conclusion, some may call me old fashioned for upholding my grandfather’s good ole American morals and values. However, our ancestors founded this country on these very principles: hard work, integrity, and honor. What honor can a man have if he defiles his own name? Mr. Vice-President, please while holding our futures in your hands, do not allow any more of America’s morals or values to be lost. Please, I beg, leave the profanity behind closed doors, and enlighten today’s youth with the words of wisdom that YOU have to pass down to my generation. Thank you for your time. 

Brandon L. Halcomb
Junior, Athlete, Honor Student, and a Christian public High School student