Duncan Public Schools threatened with lawsuit over "unconstitutional Bible distribution"

Published: Apr. 7, 2015 at 10:29 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 13, 2015 at 3:13 PM CDT
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DUNCAN, Okla._Do Bibles belong in the hands of public school teachers? That's the debate in Duncan as a national humanist group has threatened a lawsuit against Duncan Public Schools over what they call "unconstitutional Bible distribution."

A group with the American Humanist Association in Washington, D.C., wrote an email to the district after a parent of a Woodrow Wilson Elementary third-grader told them his teacher distributed Bibles to the class during class time and asked if anyone would like one. According to the email, the child felt "peer-pressured and coerced" to follow most of his classmates and take one.

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center says the district has until Friday to respond to these allegations or they could face a lawsuit. In the meantime, parents all over Duncan are reacting and voicing their concerns through social media.

Facebook was flooded with support of the elementary teacher who gave her students the option of a Bible, but not everybody feels the same way. Some parents feel it's definitely a situation that needs to be addressed.

"We're not all Christians. And even if we were, still not everybody would practice the same. And we have to have tolerance for all different types," said a concerned parent against the idea of handing out Bibles in school.

One mother didn't want to go on camera, but says she should be the first one informed about the Bible in school before her children.

"As long as it pertained to the curriculum and I had previous knowledge so it could be properly addressed," said the mother.

Many feel as though the Woodrow Wilson Elementary teacher did nothing wrong. Parents, students and dozens of residents took to the Internet to change their profile pictures and show off Bibles that were in classrooms, all in support for a teacher at the center of the big controversy.

"I actually talked to my daughters about it and I asked them if they'd want to take their Bibles to school," said Candice Barnes-Padilla.

Barnes-Padilla says she doesn't view the Bible handout as anything but positive.

"A woman that was just handing them out, but giving them free will, if you want to take one. I don't feel like that's a problem," said Barnes-Padilla.

Duncan Public Schools officials could not be reached for comment, but the ACLU of Oklahoma says it's still too early to determine if the allegations from the humanist group are in fact, true. Now, many anxiously await the outcome to see whether the First Amendment was compromised in Duncan.

"I hope that Duncan Public Schools can stand behind this teacher. Apparently, they need more teachers like that in our area and our school system," said Barnes-Padilla.

Some hope this is a wake-up call for Duncan and the surrounding communities.

"I think Duncan is a very shielded, small town. I'd really like to see these small town school districts become more aware that we really need to be more open to other religions in the area as well," said the concerned parent.

The ACLU says more often than not, deadlines like the Appignani Humanist Legal Center gave DPS is not necessarily a threat, but more of an "olive branch" to work with the school outside of court.

Meanwhile, nearly 100 people will be attending a community-wide prayer circle at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. It'll be held across the street from Woodrow Wilson Elementary.