A Tennessee student says that she was suspended for ‘Godly speaking’ for using a common courtesy phrase in a computer classroom earlier this week. According to her, the teacher has a rule against any phrases that smack of religious talk, and she and other students feel that their faith is being suppressed, and their rights violated.
The teacher, on the other hand, argues that her student was not suspended for an expression of faith, but for speaking out disruptively during class time, yelling “Bless you!” after another student sneezed. While it’s not completely unheard of to have a rule about responding to sneezes, due to the level of disruption that can occur when a dozen or two dozen students all stop what they’re doing to offer courtesies, in this case, students say’bless you’ is specifically forbidden for being ‘godly.’
WMC Action News reports that Kendra Turner, a high school senior, was sent to in-school suspension after what she calls speaking up for her faith. It’s worth noting that in-school suspension is not what many think of as ‘suspended’ with an actual ejection from school.
However, the question of whether there’s a violation of students’ rights largely comes down to whether the teacher actually forbids speaking of faith.
The First Amendment Center explains that students have the right to express their religious beliefs, as long as they are not being disruptive or infringing on the rights of others. In other words, when speaking is allowed, speaking about religion is allowed. It is not an infringement of rights to forbid speaking in general. Students may pray, but may not interrupt class to do so. Students may witness to other students, but may be forbidden from continuing to press a classmate who has asked to be left alone. Some states are even passing new laws to clarify that speaking about beliefs is allowed.
Students say that the teacher in question made references to ‘Godly speaking’ and said certain phrases were ‘for church.’ If students are being denied certain speech because it is ‘Godly’ or faith-related, that is indeed a violation of rights.
However, Pundit Guy shares that the students are also forbidden from speaking the following words or phrases:
“I don’t know”
…as well as a catch-all “other peer expressions.”
This seems to indicate it’s not all about religion.
The investigation into the teacher’s rules continue, but at this point, the school denies that the student was actually ‘suspended for godly speaking,’ maintaining that it was about being disruptive.
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