Park Lakes Elementary School

A teacher at Park Lakes Elementary School in Florida’s Broward County Public
Schools system, banned a 5th-grade student Giovanni Rubeo from reading the Bible during “free reading” time when students supposedly are allowed to read anything they choose.

Swornia ThomasGiovanni had been given a Bible at church as a Christmas gift. It’s his favorite book, so on April 8, he decided he’d like to read it during the “free reading” time. But Swornia Thomas, (photo left, from Washington Times) Giovanni’s teacher, told the boy he’s not allowed to read the Bible in her class and ordered him to put it away.

Giovanni asked her to call his father, Paul Rubeo, about the incident. Thomas did so, leaving a voicemail that included, “I noticed that he [Giovanni] has a book—a religious book—in the classroom. He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.” (Listen to the voicemail here.)

Paul Rubeo then contacted Park Lake Elementary School’s principal, Orinthia Dias, who brought in the school’s legal department. None of them are willing to acknowledge that Giovanni has a constitutional right to read the Bible.

So Rubeo retained Liberty Institute to assert Giovanni’s First Amendment rights. Liberty Institute has now sent a demand letter to Broward County Public Schools and held a public event Monday (May 5) afternoon at the federal courthouse in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

“Banning religious books like the Bible violates Giovanni’s civil rights to religious free speech and free exercise,” said Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute Director of Litigation. “The school’s actions exemplify the hostility to religion that the U.S. Supreme Court has condemned.”

“We expect Broward County Public School officials to resolve this unfortunate incident quickly and amicably,” says Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys. “Absent such an apology and assurance that students in Broward County Public Schools may read religious books like the Bible during free reading times, our client is prepared to take legal action.”

Here’s contact info for your protest:

robert runcie orinthia dias
Robert Runcie and Orinthia Dias

Robert W. Runcie
Broward County Public Schools
600 SE Third Ave
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301
Phone: 754.321.2600
Fax: 754.321.2701
Email: [email protected]

Orinthia Dias
Park Lakes Elementary School
3925 State Road
Lauderdale Lakes, FL 33319
Phone: 754-322-7650
Fax: 754-322-7690
Email: Click here



Dr. Eowyn’s article first appeared at Fellowship of the Minds.