After a program assistant sent home an inappropriate religious gift with students, the Monroe County (Mich.) Intermediate School District is ensuring that school policy will be followed by the assistant and other staff in the future.
The faculty member works with children as young as 4-years-old, some of whom are disabled, and distributed a gift of play dough to the children with an accompanying letter that contained many religious references and urged people to pray. The letter was titled “CHRISTmas is Jesus’s Birthday” and opened with the sentence “So for Jesus's gift you could be like this play dough, and let Jesus mold & shape Your Life so Jesus Can use you for His Glory! [sic].” The letter instructed on how to pray “if you don’t know [Jesus]” and encouraged parents to find a church that teaches about Jesus.
FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote a letter to Superintendent Randy Monday on Jan. 7, 2013, informing him that “it was illegal and inappropriate” for the teacher “to give this gift with its proselytizing message to young children in her public school class.”
Legal counsel for the school responded the next day, informing FFRF that the teacher had been spoken to about the inappropriateness of her actions and the violation of school policy regarding obtaining approval for sending items home in a student’s backpack. The letter also informed FFRF that parents of the affected students were notified that the staff member had violated school policy and were “tak[ing] steps to ensure such inappropriate correspondence [would] not occur again.”