Parent voices concern over religious sign in public school - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Parent voices concern over religious sign in public school

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

 "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

This message was posted on a sign above a teacher's classroom at Becker Elementary School in Waterloo.

Dustin Mathenia's daughter goes to Becker, and he isn't happy. 

"She reads every sign we drive or walk by," he says.

And for her to read this one? He's not happy about that, even though he considers himself a Christian.

"As far as religion goes, I have nothing against the sign. But is school the right place for that? No."

When we brought the sign to the attention of the school district, they said it was the teacher's personal mission statement used as part of a larger leadership training program.

The district says the sign has nothing to do with curriculum, but that doesn't mean students won't encounter religion in schools in some way.

"This is the world we live in," says the district's Director of Relations Tara Thomas."It would be nearly impossible to reject every point of view or counterpoint in a tunnel vision approach to one's educational experience or life growth."

But Mathenia says it doesn't matter what religion the sign represented, because it singled one out. He doesn't think that's fair to other students.

"This isn't a Christian school. This isn't privately funded. Your tax dollars, mine, all of us. We all pay for this. It comes from a conglomerate of incomes."

The district says it recognizes students come from various backgrounds, but the freedom of expression includes everyone, including teachers.

"Any individual employee does not check their faith at the door, nor does he or she check their ability to have freedom of expression in terms of what they may utilize to invoke and inspire them in regards to their work," says Thomas.

But Mathenia says they should.

"The focus of school should not be religion," he says. "It should be learning, and expanding the mind. Not the spirit."

The sign has been since taken down and moved to a "more personal location," according to the district.

They claims they were not aware the sign was up in the first place.

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