Frisco school district upholds Bible distribution

FRISCO?A few parents in a suburban Dallas school district are angry that volunteers with Gideons International were permitted to leave Bibles on school office counters for middle and high school students to take at their choosing and, in one case, allegedly handed the Bibles to students.

The Frisco Independent School District allowed the Bibles to be placed at its 13 secondary schools next to other non-school-related literature promoting such things as local scout troops, soccer leagues and summer camps. The district has what it calls a “viewpoint neutral” policy on such material, provided it meets strict guidelines for decency and civility. District policy prohibits solicitors from distributing materials or engaging students.

District spokeswoman Shana Wortham said the incident involving a Gideon allegedly handing the Bibles to students was resolved immediately.

In past years the Gideons have distributed Bibles on sidewalks near Frisco secondary schools, causing public safety issues and concern from parents, the district said. This year, the Gideons submitted a formal request to offer the Bibles with other non-school materials, which was approved because the Bibles met district criteria.

“Based upon the legal guidelines, the District was required to handle this request in the same manners as other requests to distribute non-school literature?in a viewpoint neutral manner,” a statement from the school district said.

But parents like Debbie Lutz, who told Dallas television station WFAA that she has two children in Frisco schools, said she was angry upon learning the Gideons were allowed to bring the Bibles onto the campuses.

“That is unbelievable,” Lutz said. “No one has ever sent a letter home from the school district telling me that.

“I just think religion should be out of schools,” Lutz told the station.

Another parent, Michael Baier, told that such things as Bibles should be available where families worship, not at school. “School is a place to learn, not to worship,” Baier said.

Responding to critics, the school district said in its statement: “Those opposing the recent distribution of the Bibles must understand that if the District prohibits the Bibles from being placed in the distribution area, it must also prohibit all groups such as those identified above, from utilizing the distribution area as well. The law requires the District to permit all or none, there is no middle ground.”

The Frisco schools’ policy for non-school materials states, “Activities such as distributing literature, displaying signs, petitioning for change, and disseminating information concerning issues of public concern are protected by the First Amendment.”

Some parents, meanwhile, didn’t mind the Bible distribution.

Holly McCall, a PTA president at Roach Middle School in Frisco, told the Gideons didn’t disturb anyone.

“I didn’t feel like [the Bible] was being pushed upon” students, McCall said.

Wortham said the school district communications office received 12 phone calls and e-mails voicing concern about the Bibles. The 13 secondary schools where the Bibles were left serve several thousand students, and several reported contact from a few parents.

Asked by the TEXAN if any students were coerced or pressured to take the Bibles, Wortham said, “Not to our knowledge. No school personnel would have been involved in any such activity.”

A phone call to a spokesman at the national office of Gideons International in Nashville, Tenn., was not returned.

Ed Nalley, a Gideons representative from nearby Plano, told the TEXAN he could not comment on media coverage of the Bible distribution except to say that “we had a positive experience in Frisco.”

?Compiled by Jerry Pierce

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