Seven-year old shamed by teacher for saying he does not believe in god

The ACLU of Indiana has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a seven-year old boy identified only as A.B. who, when asked during recess by a classmate if he attended church, told her that he did not because he did not believe in a god.

This caused the classmate to cry. A playground supervisor noticed this and informed the boy’s teacher who investigated and interrogated the boy about what happened and his beliefs. The boy was then required him to sit by himself during lunch for three days and not interact with other children.

The two children were also sent to speak to another adult employee.

This person asked them what the problem was and A.B. indicated that his classmate had become upset when, in response to her question, he had said he did not go to church and did not believe in God.

Upon hearing this, the adult employee looked at A.B.’s classmate and stated that she should not be worried and should be happy she has faith and that she should not listen to A.B.’s bad ideas. She then patted the little girl’s hand.

These and other indignities inflicted on the boy by the teachers made him feel that he had done something wrong and also caused other children to be mean to him too, and the boy would go home crying on many occasions saying that he felt that everyone at the school, teachers and students alike, hated him.

The pressure on children to conform to societal norms is pretty strong. Teachers should be the ones shielding the holders of minority views from being harassed, not leading the charge.


  1. Katydid says

    This is absolutely appalling and completely believable. 15 years ago, my then-first-grader came home and asked why he was going to hell; another child told him he was going to hell because our family didn’t attend the same church his family did (actually, we didn’t attend church at all, but that was beside the point). I called the teacher, who said, “you should change churches.” I reported it to the principal, who shrugged her shoulders. We pulled the child from that school.

  2. lanir says

    This was one of the things I was sort of sheltered from by getting sent to Catholic schools. I never had any expectation that anyone would do anything other than sell the party line on any given topic.

    It was quite awhile ago but I remember teachers being a pretty varied group. On the whole I think they’d have been considered conservative but there were rebels and those were the ones I tended to get along with the best. In grade school I wasn’t popular with my classmates and often ended up in front of the principal oversome manner of incident that they’d started. It took him most of the 8 years I spent there but he eventually began to believe me about not having done anything particularly wrong on most of those occasions. To his credit, he apologized to me for it and made a point to tell my parents about it. But unfortunately it took until I was almost in highschool. This was the only time I had anyone in a position of authority at a school take my side on anything of any importance and it took years of getting it wrong before they got it right. Highschool reset all that and the administration was far more authoritarian to boot. So when I stood out again they handled it in an extremely poor fashion.

    I couldn’t tell you exactly what effect this had on me but I think it definitely contributed to my dislike of academic settings. I tried several times to endure it long enough to get a degree but I could never get far in college. Even though I scored in the top 2% of my peers on every standardized test I ever took, the day to day academic process just had too many negative connotations for me. I always ended up leaving. Eventually I learned a career on my own from reading books and experimenting.

  3. Christopher Schulte says

    I grew up in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I remember a classmate of mine being slapped by a substitute teacher when I was in, I think, third grade. She said, “look at all the things God has given you! How can you not believe?” She said other things about the trees and whatever. John just looked at her, stunned. I was a believer (raised catholic) but I still thought it was horrible and wrong that an adult felt they had the right to do that to someone who could not defend himself.

    I’m sure my memory is not perfect about this -- it’s been a long time, but the impression of just how helpless a kid is when faced, alone, by an adult authority has stayed with me my whole life.

  4. busterggi says

    I wonder what the teacher would have done if the kid had said he believed in Chtulhu? My guess is that only the teacher’s god was acceptable.

  5. Mr. Dave says

    Of course, the lawsuit will be called “religious persecution” against the teacher and the other children in the school. When they can’t enjoy stomping all over a minority’s rights, they’re being persecuted.

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