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Kids Who Aren't Christian Bullied By Students, Teachers

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A mother of two students at a Kentucky elementary school says her children are being bullied by other students and even teachers because they are not Christians. 

Heather Estes told WLEX she's tried to stop the bullying by speaking with Stanton Elementary for two years.

"I've tried to address it with the school for over a year now, and, while the principal at the school is very nice, it just continues to happen," she said. 

Estes says her two children, ages 10 and 8, have been continuously bullied ever since students and teachers at the school noticed they don't attend Upper Room, a student Christian group that meets in the mornings before classes. 

The school district's website describes Upper Room as a nondenominational, student-led Christian organization, according to WLEX. 

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Estes says even teachers at Stanton Elementary, which is in Powell County, are bullying her children. 

"My children are asked every day, 'do you believe in God? Why don't you go?'" she said. "He's been told by teachers things like 'atheists will be eaten by bears.'" 

Powell County superintendent Michael Tate told WLEX that the school system is looking into Estes' claims. 

Nonreligious students facing bullying from religious majorities is a concern in schools. The number of people in the U.S. who identify as nonreligious is at the highest point it has been in 30 years, according to a Pew Research Center survey cited by The Atlantic in 2013.

The Secular Student Alliance is a nonreligious advocacy group with student groups across almost 400 high schools and colleges.

These groups operate "Secular Safe Zones" which are "safe, neutral places for students to talk about their doubts without fear of religious bullying," according to The Atlantic.

"It's shocking how often people tell secular students that they don't belong in America," SSA spokesperson Jesse Galef told The Atlantic. "Sometimes there are threats of violence against students who openly identify as atheists ... We're calling on supportive role models nationwide to stand up for these students." 

Despite rising numbers of nonreligious people and atheists, Galef says the majority of Americans remain religious. 

"People still assume that everybody is religious, or that if you're not religious you're not a good person," he said. "That's were a lot of the bullying starts." 

The Atlantic lists several incidents of students being bullied by classmates and adults for taking action against religion in schools. In one of those cases, a high school student from Louisiana made his school cancel a prayer during graduation and was kicked out of his house as a result.

"Sometimes the bullying is active and intentional," Galef said. "But a lot of times it's passive assumptions that atheists are bad or immoral. And those assumptions filter into their language in hurtful ways." 

Sources: WLEX, The Atlantic / Featured Image: Neil Williamson/Flickr / Embedded Images: Salvatore Laporta/AP via The Atlantic, Pexels

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