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A California elementary school is facing a possible lawsuit after a teacher allegedly confiscated a six-year-old child’s Christmas candy canes and told him “Jesus is not allowed in school.”
Last December, Isaiah Martinez brought his first grade classmates at Merced Elementary School candy canes. Attached to each treat was a message explaining the religious legend surround the candies. The legend references a candy maker who created the candy cane to symbolize the life of Christ.
When the six-year-old boy arrived at school, his teacher noticed the religious message and immediately confiscated the gifts, according to Robert Tyler, the general counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom.
The teacher, identified by the AFF as Valerie Lu, then consulted with the supervising principal who instructed her to prevent Isaiah from distributing the candy canes.
“Ms. Lu then spoke to Isaiah and told him that ‘Jesus is not allowed at school,’” Tyler wrote in a letter to the West Covina Unified School District. “In fear that he was in some sort of trouble, Isaiah then watched as Ms. Lu proceeded to rip the candy cane legend off of each candy cane and then throw the Christian messages back in to the box.”
Tyler said the little boy watched as his teacher threw the box and the messages into the trash.
“She then told Isaiah that he could distribute the candy canes now that the Christian messages were eliminated,” Tyler wrote, noting that the teacher was following the “explicit instructions” of her supervisor, Gordon Pfitzer.
Isaiah was later allowed to distribute candy canes with a Christian message but he was forced to do so off-campus, outside the schoolhouse gate at the conclusion of the school day, according to his attorney
“Meanwhile, other students in Isaiah’s class handed out Christmas gifts to their fellow classmates,” Tyler wrote. “Some of these gifts expressed secular messages concerning Christmas and were packaged with images of Santa Claus, penguins with Santa hats, Christmas trees and other secular messages.”
The Advocates for Faith & Freedom sent a letter to the district demanding they apologize to Isaiah and adopt a new policy “to prohibit school officials from bullying and intimidating Christian students and religiously affiliated students.”
Tyler said it has been well established by the U.S. Supreme Court that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
Citing the court case Morse v. Frederick, he warned that “any policy that suppresses a student’s free speech, in this case the censorship of the candy cane legend violated Isaiah’s constitutional rights unless the school district reasonably concluded that there would be material and substantial disruption of the school’s work or discipline because of the candy cane message.”
Perhaps the teacher and principal feared the sounds of students slurping their candy canes might disrupt the school’s learning environment.
Superintendent Debra Kaplan released a statement to Los Angeles-area news outlets defending the teacher’s actions.
“At the present time, we do not have any reason to believe that the teacher or any other district employee had any intention other than to maintain an appropriate degree of religious neutrality in the classroom and to communicate this to the child in an age-appropriate manner,” Kaplan stated.
It takes a special kind of evil to confiscate a six-year-old child’s Christmas gifts. In this age of tolerance and diversity, public school educators seem to be under the impression that they can bully and intimidate Christian boys and girls.
They are sorely mistaken and I’m glad the Advocates for Faith and Freedom has exposed the West Covina Unified School District’s repugnant treatment of Isaiah Martinez.
It’s a good thing he didn’t give the kids Hershey’s Kisses. The teacher would’ve probably hauled him to the office on sexual harassment charges.