Giovanni Rubeo is a fifth-grade student at the school, who had been given a Bible at church as a Christmas gift. It’s his favorite book, so he decided he’d like to read it during the time in class where students are allowed to read anything they choose.
Swornia Thomas is Giovanni’s teacher. On April 8, Thomas told Giovanni 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.” Rubeo then contacted the 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.The case law is so well established that a public school may not selectively discriminate based on religion that the teacher should not be entitled to qualified immunity.