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Teacher's Bible Ban In Class Sparks Protest & Change

FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) - A Broward County boy said he was banned from reading "The Good Book" during free-reading time in school. The boy and his father have hired an attorney, calling this a violation of the boy's Constitutional rights. Meanwhile, the Broward County School District says this is all a big misunderstanding.

"I first started reading a little bit (of the Bible,)" says Rubeo. "Little by little, it started becoming my favorite book to read.

Giovanni Rubeo says the Bible was given to him as a gift from his church, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, over Christmas.

The Park Lakes Elementary fifth grader said he started reading it during free-reading time in his first-period class. That's when the boy's attorney claims his teacher, Swornia Thomas, stepped in.

Rubeo's attorney shared a voicemail the teacher left for Giovanni's dad.

"Good morning, Mr. Rubeo," says a woman. "Giovanni called you because I asked him to. I noticed that he had a book, a religious book, in the classroom. He's not permitted to read those books in my classroom. He said if I told him to put it away, you said not to do that. So please give me a call. I need to have some understanding on direction to him about the book he's reading opposed to the curriculum for public school. Ms. S. Thomas. Thank you. Have a wonderful day. Bye, bye."

Giovanni and his lawyer claim Giovanni was told on multiple occasions that he couldn't read the Bible during free-reading time. In April, the boy's dad went to the principal.

He says he got a letter stating Giovanni can read the Bible before and after school and during lunch. It makes no mention of free reading time.

"This is an egregious violation of the Constitution, as well as a very terrible violation of the United Sates Department of Education policy," said Rubeo's attorney Jeremiah Dys.  "Students do not shed their constitutional rights when they enter through the schoolhouse gates."

The Broward School District claimed it was told Giovanni was reading the Bible when he should have been reading an assigned book, not during free-reading time. The district stressed that any student may read the Bible, or any other religious book, during free time.

The boy's father says he wants an apology from the school.

"This is your kids, too, it's not just my son," said Paul Rubeo. "To be able to read their Bible during free-reading time, there comes a point in life when you have to stand up for what's right and what's wrong."

The district wouldn't comment on what, if any, consequences the teacher might face. Giovanni says there has been no free-reading time, recently, so he hasn't been reading his Bible at school.

CBS4's Gaby Fleischman stopped by Mrs. Thomas' home. Her husband told us she was not there and asked: "What the [expletive] do you want?"

Gaby responded that we want to speak to Mrs. Thomas' to hear her side of the story.

"She ain't got nothing to say to you, she ain't got nothing to say," responded her husband. "Get me on camera, get the [expletive] out of my yard."


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