This District Just Got Sued for Teaching Creationism, Offering Extra Credit for Writing Bible Verses on Tests, & More

The ACLU of Louisiana along with its parent organization is suing the Sabine Parish School District because of its “long history of proselytizing students and promoting religion” and the list of complaints against Negreet High School (in the district) is just stunning:

A picture of Jesus in one of the Sabine Parish schools

We know about the problems thanks to plaintiffs Scott and Sharon Lane and their five brave children, including sixth grader C.C., a “Buddhist of Thai heritage” who doesn’t believe in God.

[C.C.'s] science teacher, Rita Roark, repeatedly taught students that the Earth was created by God 6,000 years ago, that evolution is “impossible,” and that the Bible is “100 percent true.”

Roark also regularly features religious questions on her tests such as “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” When C.C. did not write in Roark’s expected answer, “LORD,” she belittled him in front of the rest of the class. While studying other religions, Roark has told students that Buddhism is “stupid.”

When Plaintiffs objected, Sabine Parish Superintendent, Sara Ebarb, told them that “this is the Bible belt.” She suggested that C.C. should “change” his faith or transfer to another district school 25 miles away where, in her words, “there are more Asians.”

What the hell…?!

These weren’t just isolated incidents either:

Beyond Roark’s classroom, the school also regularly incorporates official Christian prayer into class and school events. School officials display religious iconography through hallways and classrooms, including a large portrait of Jesus Christ, and an electronic marquee in front of the school scrolls Bible verses as students enter the building.

This has been going on for years now. Check out this screenshot from the district’s old website (it’s since been revised):

A statement of beliefs from the Sabine Parish School District website. The page has since been removed.

C.C. transferred to another school to get away from his teacher and administrator, but the proselytization didn’t end. His new school continues to have prayer at assemblies, prayer over the public address system before football games, and his teacher even read them a story about the birth of Jesus.

Roark never learned her lesson either, as she still offers extra credit to students willing to profess their faith in the Christian God:

She demands that students write a Bible verse or “Isn’t it amazing what the Lord has made” at the bottom of exams and assignments if they want extra credit. Roark writes “Yes!” next to the verse or religious affirmation and awards students five additional points when they comply with this mandate.

In social studies class, which Roark also teaches, she presents Biblical accounts of persons, places, and events as fact. For example, on a handout asking, “What mountain did Moses supposedly get the Ten Commandments from,” Roark crossed out the word “supposedly.” She also has told students that the Bible is “100% true” and that “scientists are slowly finding out that everything in the Bible is accurate.”

That’s why the family is finally suing to put a stop to this madness and recover the money they’ve had to spent transporting their son to a different school. You should read father Scott Lane’s piece explaining why he filed the lawsuit, reiterating just how badly religion has permeated the environment in this district.

This is just unbelievable. What’s more is that this only came to light now, even though the district has likely been preaching instead of teaching for who-knows-how-long. How many students came and went through those school doors without saying anything out of fear of being ostracized and humiliated like C.C.? How many non-Christian students hesitated to speak up because they didn’t want to be the sole voice of opposition? How did Roark get a job teaching science anywhere outside the Creation Museum? How does this superintendent still have a job after making openly racist comments to one of her students?!

I’m mad — as an atheist, as a teacher, and as a citizen. No student should have to deal with the bullshit these adults have put them through and the Lanes are doing us all a service by being the public faces of this slam-dunk lawsuit.

We thought it was bad when Damon Fowler had to deal with graduation prayers in his own Louisiana high school, but this parish, only a few hours away from Damon’s, has been even worse, breaking the law and getting away with it for far too long.

At least it may be coming to an end soon.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.


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