Print District board OK with optional Bible class
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 22 September 2010 00:00

The Camp Verde Unified School District has cleared the way for local Christian leaders to set up a Bible class for students who wish to participate.

Camp Verde Unified School District Governing Board President Tim Roth, right, talks with local Christian leaders including, clockwise from left, Rev. Brian LeStourgeon, Rev. Kevin O'Neil, Trent Hackett, Rev. Wayne Speer and Ambie Charles during a meeting Friday, Sept. 17 in Superintendent Dan Brown's office about organizing released time for CVUSD students to spend studying the Bible.It’s called release time, and it’s completely in line with the U.S. Constitution, according to Kevin O’Neil, reverend of the local Calvary Chapel.

The program started in 1914 at a school in Indiana. In the 1950s, this religious education course was ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, as long as it was held off of public school property.

The program has been adopted by around 1,000 public school systems, O’Neil said.

In this case, organizers are hoping to use Parkside Community Church, right across the street from the main public school complex in Camp Verde.

“Our children need purpose and meaning for their lives,” O’Neil said. “It’s a Bible education that prepares them to be leaders and contributing members of society.”

The classes would be age appropriate, O’Neil said, with younger children learning from puppets, songs and videos.

“Release time was designed to bring church to children,” O’Neil said. The pastor cited studies that indicated children who had taken part in similar programs performed better in school when it came to grades and performance.

“It’s been observed that [this program] leads to positive character development,” O’Neil said.

The Bible will be the only textbook for the class, O’Neil said, and the teachers will be pulled from local churchgoing folk who have worked with course organizers.“

The curriculum is developed by a board of directors and teachers from all the churches,” O’Neil said.

The program would likely take place during school hours. School board members decided they had no decision-making capability with regard to this plan; the district is obligated to provide an opportunity for children who want to participate in the Bible class program.

The churches will cover the insurance cost for Bible classes taught off school property, O’Neil said.

Some members of the public suggested the class be held before or after school to avoid interrupting required instruction time mandated by the state.

John Bohan, a teacher at the elementary school, expressed his concerns that the program would be carried out appropriately.

“I think communities have the right to ask for something like this from their local schools,” Bohan said. “But it’s important that all religious denominations are included ... and parents need to know that their religious views are represented.”

Bohan didn’t want any students to feel singled out, and suggested a class meeting time either before or after official school hours.

The school board decided to refer to its lawyer before making any decisions permanent.

The classes will use the King James and New International versions of the Bible, O’Neil said.

Board member Andrea Wrubel was concerned that letting students go outside the school boundaries might be an issue, but she supported the idea behind the program.

“[We] just need to get together with the administration and the teachers and figure it out,” Wrubel said.

O’Neil said a similar program had helped provide an anchor for his children, two of whom had served in the U.S. Army in Iraq.

“My boys have seen stuff I never want to see,” O’Neil said.