Christopher Turner is an 11-year-old student from Bowden, Georgia. As October came to a close, the Turner family was preparing for Samhain, a Pagan holiday of giving thanks and remembering the lives of their ancestors.
Samhain fell on Monday, October 31, 2011. Just as with any religious holiday, Christopher did not attend school. When he returned on Tuesday morning his teacher, Connie Ross, took him out of class and proceeded to harass him about Paganism, ending this conversation with, "Paganism is not a religion."
Upon hearing this news, Christopher's mother, a single mother of three, immediately contacted the Carroll County Board of Education and spoke to David Goldberg, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. Goldberg apologized, assuring her that her son did indeed have the right to freedom of religion and promising he would set up a meeting between all three of her children's teachers and their principal. However, Ms. Turner was not to attend these meetings.
When Christopher returned to school following his mother's complaints to the school board, his teacher had another surprise for him. She assigned an essay to the class about "How Christmas started," informing the class that they were not to include anything in their papers about Paganism. When a student in Christopher's class asked what Paganism was, Ross replied, "Anything that is non-Biblical is Paganism."
As if this wasn't bad enough, Christopher's nightmare continued outside of school walls. On the bus ride home one day, Christopher, who is part Hispanic, was speaking Spanish with other Spanish speaking students. His bus driver, David Ayers, told him he could not speak Spanish on the bus. He did not address any of the other children.
Christopher was kicked off the bus and received two days of in-school suspension. When Ayers spoke to Ms. Turner, he said that "if [Christopher] continues to speak in a language that I cannot understand, then he will get in trouble."
Not only is Christopher being drilled by his teacher about his religion, but his bus driver is also telling him what languages he can and cannot speak on the bus. He has not been to school since the latter incident and his mother's calls to Ross and Goldberg remain unanswered.
We cannot stand for this infringement of basic human rights. This family deserves to live free of the completely unfounded discrimination and harassment they are receiving.
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