A Southern California school district will allow students to hand out Bible coins outside of class, saying teachers who banned them violated the children's rights of free expression.
The San Bernardino Sun reports that earlier this year, a teacher at Desert Knolls Elementary School in Apple Valley banned four children from handing out plastic coins with Bible verses during recess.
Urged by Freedom X, a Los Angeles-based non-profit that works to protect the rights of conservatives and Christians, the school district investigated and concluded that the teachers had suppressed the children's First Amendment rights.
Parents Allen and Kelly Peterson purchased the plastic Bible coins to distribute at community events and to provide to Christian religious groups. Their children wanted to bring the coins for kids to hand out during recess.
"The kids would take four, five, six of them to school," Allen said. "A lot of [their friends] will ask them to bring more coins because they'll take them home to give them out to family and friends."
But in January, a teacher spotted a coin that had fallen out of one of the boy's pockets. She told the child she "hated" the coins and instructed him not to bring them back to school.
"'I hate them and they're a distraction to my class. I don't want to see them any more,'" Allen quoted his son Patrick's testimony to district investigators Wednesday morning.
A month later, for Valentine's Day, a different teacher went through 32 homemade snack bags brought in by another Peterson child and pulled out all of the coins, saying they were a violation of law.
When Allen brought the incident up to the principal he was told nothing could happen on her campus without her permission.
He then left a message for her superiors at the Apple Valley Unified District office, but again, his complaint went nowhere.
Consequently, he contacted Freedom X who wrote a letter to Apple Valley Unified outlining the persecution suffered by the family. The letter also warned of potential legal action.
"Unless we are satisfied a sufficient apology has been made and the teachers have been duly instructed" not to interfere with the non-disruptive distribution of the coins, "we will not hesitate to initiate legal action to vindicate the Peterson boys' constitutional rights," the letter read.
School officials immediately began an investigation, according to Superintendent Thomas Hoegerman, who now says teachers who are unaware of the case law on the subject will receive the appropriate training.
Meanwhile, the family says they don't want any money from the school district. For them, it's about teaching their children they've done nothing wrong.
"All we want is for the kids to know they've done nothing wrong," Kelly said.
"They have friends of theirs who don't know Jesus, don't know God, and if they can give out these coins, they might be able to help them," Allen said.