Barrow BOE to consider offering Bible studies

WINDER - Students at Apalachee and Winder-Barrow High Schools could be studying Bible history classes as early as this fall.

In Tuesday's work session, Barrow County Board of Education members will discuss offering two elective Bible classes; Literature and History of The Old Testament and of The New Testament. It could be the only Georgia school system considering offering the new courses.

"We are not aware of any that are teaching these Bible-related courses and none have petitioned us to have a class taught and funded," said Dana Tofig, communications director for the State Department of Education.

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. "Our district is determining if they want to go forward and, if so, what direction we go and a time frame."

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

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.

Gwinnett County schools don't plan to offer the Bible courses.

"At this point we are not aware of any schools that are planning to do this," said Sloan Roach, spokeswoman for Gwinnett County Public Schools. "The very earliest this type of class could be offered in GCPS is fall '08, assuming a school puts in a proposal next fall."

- Education reporter Heather Darenberg contributed to this story.