The Legislature sparked national debate two years ago when it passed a law allowing all Georgia high schools to teach about the Bible.
But few schools are teaching state-approved Bible elective classes, because leaders say students aren’t interested in the nondevotional course and school districts fear lawsuits if it is taught wrong.
The 2006 bill ignited a loud debate over the difference between preaching and teaching. Many questioned whether schools could teach the history and literature of the Old and New Testaments without proselytizing.
The rollout of the program has been quiet.
During the 2007-08 school year —- the first the courses could be taught —- only 37 of the state’s nearly 440 high schools had the class. Most were outside the metro area, although two schools in Rockdale County taught it, and a couple of Cobb County students took it as independent study, according to the Georgia Department of Education.
The state won’t know until the end of this academic year how many schools are teaching the classes now.
More districts would offer the classes if it were promoted, said state Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams (R-Lyons), who sponsored the bill authorizing the classes.
“You’ve got to convince these school boards to do it, but they’re reluctant because they’re so afraid of lawsuits,” Williams said. “This has nothing to do with proselytizing. My intention is for people to become literate of the Bible and its influence on society.”
Schools with the program say it’s hard to drum up student interest.
Last school year, about 120 students took both classes at South Effingham High in Guyton. The school couldn’t offer the classes this year because fewer than 10 signed up, Principal Daniel Noel said.
“The kids seemed to enjoy last year, but who knows what happened this year,” Noel said. “We’ll try to offer it again next year, but there’s a lot of competition. Kids want to take an SAT prep course or some other elective.”Bible Course