Law group wants apology over Bible ‘incident’

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Union School District has allowed a 9-year-old boy to read his Bible during free-reading time, but the law group representing his grandparents wants the school to apologize in writing for a November incident.

The National Center for Law & Policy claimed in November that two district administrators told the grandparents of Noah McMahon, a 4th grader at La Costa Heights Elementary, he could not bring his Bible during the 30-minute free reading period at school.

School district officials said they never denied the boy the right to read his bible, but denied a request by the boy’s grandparents, Lori and Craig Nordal, to be taught using his Bible.

The law group, which is suing the district for teaching yoga in class, acknowledged in a recent letter that the district has allowed the boy to read his bible. However, it is asking that La Costa Heights administrators apologize to the family in writing and that the district agree to have its teachers receive First Amendment in-service training.

“As Noah’s guardians and grandparents, the Nordal’s do appreciate that EUSD has subsequently acknowledged Noah’s constitutional right to read religious books, including the Bible, during free reading time,” Dean Broyles, the president and chief counsel wrote. “However, as of today, no La Costa Heights Elementary School or Encinitas Union School District official has apologized to Noah or his grandparents, nor has there been made a much needed committed to First Amendment.”

The incident occurred on Nov. 6 when Lori and Craig Nordal — who care for Noah, who has Down’s Syndrome — discussed the topic of free reading time with his special education teacher, Shelley Hirshberg and the district’s head of special education Jamie Salter. According to an earlier news release, two school districts quickly struck down a request by Nordal to allow Noah to read his bible during free time.

The Nordals contacted the National Center, which delivered a cease-and-desist letter to the districts the following day. The demand gave the district 10 days to publicly apologize to the family and allow students to read the book of their choice during free time.

The latest letter to the district disputes school Superintendent Timothy Baird’s claims that the Nordals asked for Noah to be taught from the Bible, a statement Broyles called “false and misleading.”

Broyles is giving the district 10 days to issue the apology and commit to First Amendment training.

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