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Teacher to First Grader: Jesus is not allowed in school

CINCINNATI (WKRC) -- A teacher and school district in California are under fire after the teacher allegedly told one of her first-grade students, "Jesus is not allowed in school."

The teacher was responding to a gift the child, Isaiah Martinez, 6, brought to school to share with his classmates and teachers.

According to a press release from Advocates for Faith & Freedom, "Each gift consisted of a traditional candy cane with a message attached that recited the legend of the candy cane. The legend references a candy maker who created the candy cane to symbolize the life of Jesus Christ."

After reading the attachment, the teacher reportedly met with the school principal. The release from the advocacy group continues, "After conferring with the school principal, the teacher told Isaiah that Jesus is not allowed in school and, at the apparent direction of her principal, ripped the candy cane message from each candy cane, threw the messages in the trash, and handed the candy canes back to Isaiah for delivery to his classmates."

Family members say the child was distraught, thinking he had done something wrong and was going to get punished for he gifts.

The advocacy group is calling for a public apology from the West Covina Unified School District and asking for policies to be put in place that would restrict bullying and intimidating religiously affiliated students.

Robert Tyler, an attorney representing Martinez and his family, told the Los Angeles Daily News, "It is in the best interest for everyone if the school sets an example of tolerance of differing viewpoints, whether it be on Christmas, about religious subjects, or about cultural issues, that kids in public schools should have a right to hold differing views."

The school district is reviewing the situation, according to KNBC-TV. Debra Kaplan, Superintendent of West Covina Unified School District, said in a written statement that officials' intent is to "honor and respect the beliefs of all students in matters of religion."

Kaplan continued, "At the present time, we do not have any reason to believe that the teacher or any other district employee had any intention other than to maintain an appropriate degree of religious neutrality in the classroom and to communicate this to the child in an age-appropriate manner."

The school reportedly has until January 13, 2013 to respond before legal action is pursued.

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