Several moms were upset when their children at Godson Elementary were handed a Gideon bible recently without permission, according to one mom.
The Abbotsford school district has a long standing relationship with Gideons International to distribute bibles to Grade 5 students, but only after receiving parental consent.
Beverly Egan says this procedure wasn’t followed on Nov. 18 when her son was offered a bible at school.
“The day the bibles were handed out, I had no idea. He (Egan’s son) didn’t tell me. And I went to the school the next day, and I started talking to some of the other moms that had kids in their class…and I found out that this was going on. They were all quite upset, and I was a little shocked, because as far as I know, they’re not supposed to do that.”
Egan says her son was offered a bible in his Grade 5 class, but refused it. Egan has never seen or signed one the cards that the Gideons distribute in advance to request permission. She was “very shocked” when she learned of the incident. When Egan spoke with other parents of Grade 5 students at the school, she says many of them went through the same thing, and they were “very upset.”
The school district denies the incident. According to communications manager Dave Stephen, the principal received six signed consent forms, and only those six students were given a bible.
Neither principal Joanne Neveux nor superintendent Kevin Godden would comment on the incident. Gideons International did not reply to the News’ request for an interview.
The school district has a standard procedure for the distribution of Gideon bibles. Volunteer representatives from Gideons International first drop off permission cards at elementary schools. Teachers then distribute the cards to Grade 5 students, who are supposed to take them home. One to two weeks after the school receives the cards signed by parents, the Gideons collect the cards and provide the corresponding number of bibles. The principal then arranges for distribution to those students with signed cards.
According to Stephen, principal Neveux had a discussion with one parent about the process.
“Certainly if a parent has a complaint they are encouraged to communicate with the principal at their school,” wrote Stephen in an email to the News.
Last November, the Abbotsford school district rejected a suggestion to review the policy of distributing bibles at schools, at a time when the Chilliwack school district was facing significant criticism on a similar policy. The Chilliwack board of education ruled to uphold the policy. Abbotsford and Chilliwack are the only two school districts in B.C. to continue to allow the Gideons to distribute bibles to schoolchildren.