Parents say teacher barred Bible verse use in homework

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Parents of a sixth-grader at a public charter school in North Las Vegas want an apology after they say a teacher barred their daughter from using a Bible verse in an assignment.

Nonprofit legal group Liberty Institute, representing Tim and Kate Frasier, sent a letter Wednesday containing their demand for the apology to the Somerset Academy's Losee campus.

The Fraisers said their daughter Mackenzie was told she couldn't use the Bible verse John 3:16 for a technology class assignment called "All About Me" that involved creating a PowerPoint presentation and including an inspirational saying on a slide.

When the Fraisers asked an assistant principal why, the administrator explained the class represented a captive audience, according to an email sent with the complaint letter.

Somerset Academy administrators deferred comment to the school's management company Academica Nevada.

A statement sent by the group's legal manager Colin Bringhurst said Somerset Academy would investigate the circumstances of the complaint and respond to Liberty Institute's letter once the investigation was complete. The letter demands an apology within 10 days.

In the statement, the school says it considers the civil liberties of its students to be of utmost importance.

"As such, we strive to comply in every way with the directives set forth by the U.S. Department of Education with regard to religious expression in public schools," the statement said.

Assistant Principal Jenyan Martinez cited the federal agency in an emailed response to Tim Fraiser on May 1. The email was included with the Liberty Institute's letter.

Martinez said based on the agency's directives, a student's right to free religious expression didn't include "the right to have a captive audience listen or compel other students to participate."

Martinez said Mackenzie's presentation would have created that situation.

"Had the assignment been designed to simply hand in for a grade, this would not have been an issue," she wrote.

Jeremy Dys, senior counsel with the Liberty Institute, disagreed, citing the federal agency's guidelines on religious expression in class assignments that say students are free to express their beliefs "in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination."

"I would presume it's a simple mistake," Dys said of the school's actions.

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