Bible returned to Neosho school’s reading program
January 25, 2005
NEOSHO – Amid considerable public outcry the Neosho Board of Education reversed its earlier decision and unanimously voted Jan. 18 to return the Bible to the computer server operated by the Neosho R-5 School District.
Citing separation of church and state as the reason for its initial action in removing the Bible from among the books listed for the school district’s accelerated reading program, Steve Marble, board president, told the Joplin Globe that the issue “was never about removing the Bible from our schools.”
Board members cited separation of church and state as the reason for their action at the time. But after the district began receiving complaints it sought a legal opinion which supported the inclusion of the Bible and its related testing material on the district’s computer server.
More than a dozen parents showed up for the Jan. 18 meeting to express their dismay over the Bible’s removal. Among those attending were Deanna and Larry Dowell, members of Splitlog Baptist Church near Goodman.
“We are here as Christians supporting the Bible,” Deanna told the Globe. “We were glad that the board left the Bible on the test list and in the accelerated reading program.”
The Dowells were joined by other Missouri Baptists who decried the board’s original action. Among the most vocal was Rodney Albert, chairman of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission and pastor of Hallsville Baptist Church. “I don’t want to judge what’s in a man’s heart, but there are simply too many Supreme Court cases on this issue and too many Department of Education clarifications for this action to be done in ignorance,” Albert said after it was discovered that the Bible had been removed.
Prior to the vote, Superintendent Mark Mitchell told the board, “I believe there is no 100 percent answer for this situation. However, I believe the school district can adhere to a ‘community standards’ rule, and allow the Bible Accelerated Reading Tests to be accessed through our computer network.
“I can attest that every person who has written, called or e-mailed me with regard to this issue is very supportive of the school board making the decision to leave the tests on the server.”
Mitchell added that the board could take the action because “we have a good pulse of the community,” according to the Globe.
The controversy began earlier this month when Chuck and Mary Alice Nelson’s daughter sat down at a computer and attempted to access the Bible and related testing materials that the Nelsons had donated to the Neosho R-5 School District at the end of the 20003-2004 school year. They discovered the material had been removed. The Nelsons made the donation to the district’s accelerated reader program (designed to allow students to earn points by choosing from thousands of books and then taking comprehension tests) simply because they wanted to give students a chance to earn credit for reading the Bible just like they would if they read any other book in the program.