Outrage results after school officials force girl to remove word from veteran's poem

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MCDOWELL COUNTY, N.C. —

Some parents and students are outraged after McDowell County School Officials forced a 6-year-old girl to remove the word God from a poem honoring veterans in her family.

Those parents packed a board meeting to speak out.

More than 100 people filled the McDowell County School Board meeting in support of the girl and the poem that she recited at her school last month with two references to God.

"He prayed to God for strength, he prayed to God for peace," the poem read.

The West Marion Elementary School student was preparing for a Veterans Day program when she read her poem, but it was soon edited by the superintendent to remove the word God.

The girl's mother told the school board members about it.

"It was explained to me when Dr. Gerri Martin said that we must remove the words 'to God' from my daughter's poem, because it was a school assembly and because my child was the only one asked to write something about her grandfathers. She also discussed the law pertaining to the separation of church and state," said Renata Crawley.

Crawley is also a fifth grade teacher at West Marion Elementary and said the poem to honor her veteran grandfather was a family project.

"Did my daughter write 100-percent of this poem? No she did not. But if anyone sitting in this room were to go up to my daughter today, and say 'is this your poem?' She would say 'yes, this is my poem,'" said Crawley. "She said to me, "mama, I don't want to take the words out of the poem."

Crawley said her child recited the poem in the Veterans Day assembly without using the word God.

At the meeting, pastors spoke out against what some called a violation of the child's freedom of speech and said they were here to support the child.

"This is a faith-based city, county, and I'm sorry if you are offended by a child who wants to speak from her heart and her mind by using God, something is wrong," said Rev. Dr. Carl Manuel, Jr.

School board members said while they would listen to public comments that they would not discuss the issue in this session.

No one in the meeting spoke in favor of editing God out of the poem.