SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA.com) — A Los Angeles legal firm has put officials with the Apple Valley Unified School District on notice for complaints of alleged discrimination against Christian students handing out coins with an imprinted Bible verse.
An attorney with public interest law firm Freedom X wrote a letter to the school district alleging that teachers at Desert Knolls Elementary School in Apple Valley reprimanded two students – a third-grader and a fourth-grader – for their practice of passing out aluminum coins containing a verse from the Gospel of John to students during recess and lunch.
On one side of the coin reads the Bible verse John 3:16, which states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” On the other side of the coin appears the question, “Where will you spend eternity?”.
On two separate occasions in January and February, teachers allegedly reprimanded the boys for bringing the coins to school, even though “the coins did not disrupt classes and no one had complained about them,” according to attorneys.
The letter dated March 12 (PDF) alleges that one of the teachers told one boy she “hated” the coins, while another insisted they violated the state’s education code.
Attorney William Becker, Jr. said the boys’ parents, Allen and Kelly Peterson, tried to contact school officials to complain, but were rebuffed by the school’s principal, who argued with the parents and refused to allow the boys to hand out the coins.
“Public school teachers in this day and age can’t play dumb anymore,” said Becker. “They know the law prevents religious discrimination, yet they can’t help but act on their bigoted instincts. That has to stop.”
The letter – which demands the district allow the boys to hand out the coins or face a lawsuit – also seeks a formal apology from the school “for the improper conduct of its teachers.”
Apple Valley Unified officials launched an investigation immediately after receiving the letter, Superintendent Thomas Hoegerman reportedly told the San Bernardino Sun.
Hoegerman said any employees who are unaware of California case law on religious freedom will receive additional training as needed, The Sun reported.