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Buncombe County School Board Updates

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Buncombe County School Board Updates

About Pagan/Wiccan's website was blocked by the filters in the Buncombe County School Board offices as "occult" material.

Image © Patti Wigington 2012; Licensed to About.com

In early 2012, About Pagan/Wiccan followed the case of the Buncombe County School Board, in Asheville, NC, where there’s been a controversy brewing regarding the distribution of Bibles in public schools.

On December 23, 2011, we ran a story about Ginger Strivelli, a Pagan mom who complained after her son was handed a Bible in public school. School officials didn’t seem to understand what the problem is. Strivelli said her fifth-grade son and his classmates were invited to leave their classroom to go down to the school office and get a free Bible. The Bibles were donated by the Gideons.

When Strivelli complained to the principal, Jackie Byerly, about the sheer inappropriateness of this, Byerly told her that the Bibles were not just handed out, but that students were given a choice as to whether they took them or not.

Strivelli said her son's teacher announced that students could leave go get a Bible from the school's main office. She says that once everyone else left, her son did too - and after all, it was a chance to get out of class for a while. Strivelli said her complaint is not an attack on Christianity. "I would be just as angry if it had been Jewish, Hindu, Pagan or Muslim," she said.

At that time, the school district said that their policy was inclusive, and that literature from any religion was welcome - however, when Strivelli went to drop off some Pagan books, the school quickly told her that the material would not be distributed, because the district was reviewing their policy on religious materials in schools.

In January, the district announced they would be considering restrictions on a number of religious activities in the schools - from chaplains leading prayer with football teams to choral groups singing Christian hymns at Christmas concerts. District officials said they recognized that including religious materials in a public school setting could open them up for a potential lawsuit.

At the school board meeting in February, 2012, Strivelli attended, along with Pagan blogger Angela Pippinger, and local priestess Byron Ballard. That’s when things got really heated - Pippinger, who live-blogged the entire meeting, said there were times she was concerned for her physical safety.

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