Mercer school board, superintendent sued over Bible classes

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Mercer school board, superintendent sued over Bible classes
By Ryan Quinn, The Charleston Gazette-Mail

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and a member of the Wisconsin-based nonprofit who’s a parent of a student at a public Mercer County elementary school filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking to declare unconstitutional a Bible classes program in Mercer’s public school system.

The lawsuit — filed against the Mercer school board and Mercer schools Superintendent Deborah Akers in the Bluefield Division of the federal court system’s Southern District of West Virginia — alleges the “Bible in the Schools” program is active in 15 elementary schools, one intermediate school and three middle schools, serving about 4,000 students.

The lawsuit alleges the classes are held for half an hour a week in elementary schools and 45 minutes a week in middle schools, during the regular school day. While the lawsuit states that the school system calls the classes “voluntary,” it alleges that the “overwhelming majority of students participate” and that “upon information and belief, students at many schools have not been receiving alternative instruction.”

“Mercer County Schools provides written lessons to all itinerant Bible teachers,” the lawsuit states. “Per Mercer County Schools policy, these lessons must be followed as given except for small wording changes and content revisions that have been approved at least two weeks before the lesson is taught.”

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