An elementary school in California has come under scrutiny for reportedly violating a 7-year-old boy's First Amendment rights. School officials allegedly had a sheriff's deputy dispatched to the boy's home to warn his parents about distributing Bible verses in school.
The student, only identified as "C" would typically read aloud Bible verses packed in his lunch by his mother, Christina Zavala. The activity became popular at the Desert Rose Elementary School in Palmdale, which then led Zavala to pack more verses -- along with short stories for context -- for C's friends, The Washington Times reports.
Christian nonprofit group the Liberty Counsel is now weighing the possibility of legal action against the school.
"When one little girl said 'teacher -- this is the most beautiful story I’ve ever seen,' 'separation of church and state' was the response, and the notes were banned from lunchtime distribution," said the Liberty Counsel. "C was told that the school gate was the only location at which he could give the Bible verses to his friends, and only after the bell rang."
C continued to distribute the verses, but then only did so after school. He had at least 15 students showing up every day to receive them until Principal Melanie Pagliaro approached C's father, Jaime Zavala, on May 9 and demanded that C's activities be completely removed from school property.
Later that day, a Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff arrived at the Zavalas' home to tell the boy to stop sharing the verses as "someone might be offended."
It was after this event that the family decided to pursue legal action against the school.
"This is a clear, gross violation of the rights of a child," Liberty Counsel said. "That the school district enlisted a police officer to intimidate C and his family makes this case even more outrageous."
Superintendent Raul Maldonado has reportedly stepped in because of his concern that C's rights were violated, BizPac Review reports.
"I am very concerned about this incident. I have directed that a speedy investigation be conducted, and I can assure you that all appropriate action will be taken once the facts are known."
A media spokesman for the sheriff's office denied knowing anything about the apparent visit to the Zavalas' home, although the department later confirmed a deputy was sent there in a press release:
On May 9, 2016, a school resource deputy from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department made contact with the parents of a student regarding the dissemination of literature on school grounds. Upon making contact with the student’s parents, and learning more about what had occurred, the deputy reaffirmed the student’s rights and provided the parents information on the school's policy for distribution of materials. We thank our community and school partners, including the faith community for their support of our deputy’s professional and compassionate demeanor while interacting with the student and his family.