Child Banished From Sitting With His Friends at Lunch for Saying He Doesn't Believe In God

In appalling news, a 7-year-old was "banished" from joining his peers at the lunch table after saying he doesn't believe in God. Reading this, one would assume the school was religious, but shockingly, it is a public school. A lawsuit has been filed against the teacher who handed down the punishment, and rightfully so. This child was ostracized for a completely unlawful reason and the school needs to be held accountable. 


Forest Park Elementary School second grade teacher Michelle Meyer questioned this little boy (referred to in the lawsuit as A.B.) after finding out he had told some peers on the playground that he didn't believe in God or go to church. After questioning him, she decided he would sit alone at lunch for three days as a punishment for sharing his beliefs with his friends. From the lawsuit: “Ms. Meyer asked A.B. if he had told the girl that he did not believe in God and A.B. said he had and asked what he had done wrong,” the lawsuit explained. "Ms. Meyer asked A.B. if he went to church, whether his family went to church, and whether his mother knew how he felt about God … She also asked A.B. if he believed that maybe God exists."

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This is conduct completely unacceptable by a teacher at a public school. It is absolutely none of her business what this child believes, and he is free to tell his friends about those beliefs. Meyer also told the student that he shouldn't talk to the other students for those few days because he had "offended" them. The lawsuit states that A.B. became distraught about school after the incident and was convinced everyone, teachers and students, hated him. He allegedly came home from school crying on several occasions.

For their part, the school made a statement that appears to support the student citing the constitutional protection of his right to not believe in God and acknowledging his right to express those beliefs. It is comforting that at least the administration seems to be siding with A.B. and his family.

As a parent who is not raising her child with any religion, I find this extremely disturbing to hear. While I don't believe the teachers at my childrens' school would do anything this abhorrent, it does make me nervous to think about. We don't go out of our way to tell our kids of our lack of a belief system and we don't ever say out loud whether or not we believe in God (we are planning to let them make their own conclusions), but it is true that we don't attend church. We have had a handful of parents over the years invite our children to attend vacation bible school or to join them at church, but aside from that, we have been left alone. I can't imagine my reaction if my child were made to sit alone at lunch for days because of his lack of religious beliefs. This is maddening to read and I feel deeply for him and his parents. 

I hope A.B. wins this lawsuit and that this teacher is let go from her position. Being ostracized from one's peers at this age is no small thing. I'm sure many adults have memories of bullying or being left out at that age and it touches your entire school experience. The fact that this happened at the hands of a teacher, someone he is supposed to trust and who should be helping him if he's feeling left alone, is totally unacceptable. I hope this little boy is able to move on and realize that one teacher doing something awful doesn't mean he should be afraid of school. That would be the biggest tragedy to come of this entire situation.


Image via © Naho Yoshizawa/Aflo/Corbis

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