Barrow Bible history and literature class survey results released

WINDER - Results of a survey determining student and teacher interest in proposed Bible history and literature courses were released Thursday.

Slightly less than half the students surveyed, 1,499, in Apalachee and Winder-Barrow High Schools expressed interest in taking courses in literature and history of the Old and New Testament eras, as opposed to 1,717 who said they had no interest in the classes.

Barrow County Board of Education members will decide April 10 whether to form a study committee to implement the classes.

If approved, classes could be offered in fall

2008, Chairman Bill Bramlett said.

"The poll indicates an appreciable interest," Bramlett said.

State lawmakers approved legislation in 2006 allowing high schools to offer the courses. The state Board of Education approved curriculum guidelines for the courses in January. Schools are not required to offer the classes, but if they do, the state will pay for them.

"Students will study literary style, structure of culture, customs, law, government, history, art, language and music of the Old and New Testaments," said Claire Michael, Barrow County's curriculum director.

Curricula must abide by constitutional limitations that prohibit evangelism in the classroom and ensure classes are taught as academic pursuits.

"The teachers would have to be history or language arts certified," Bramlett said.

Sen. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, has supported the legislation since 1999.

"It has always been legal to teach Bible as history and literature in public schools, but it was never taught because it was not funded," Williams said.

The proposed study committee will work to ensure the classes meet federal regulations, Bramlett said.

"It is a potential hot potato," Bramlett said. "Hopefully we have set up guidelines to maintain the separation of church and state."