By: DAVE URBANSKI | November 13, 2022
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A Bible verse painted on a teacher’s parking space at a Florida public high school has angered a fellow staff member — so much so that instructional assistant Marina Gentilesco told WFLA-TV she feels as though the verse is “attacking” her.
Gentilesco — who works at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel about a half hour north of Tampa — told the station she grew up hearing stories about her parents in the Holocaust. That’s why passing by the parking space — adorned with the words from Philippians 4:13 in the New Testament: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” — every school day angers her so, WFLA said.
“I feel like it’s attacking me as a Jew,” Gentilesco told the station, adding that “it brings me to the verge of tears, because it brings me back to the 6 million that perished. Six million perished because of our faith — because we’re Jews.”
She also told WFLA “they survived — we didn’t.”
Gentilesco added to the station that she wouldn’t mind the verse in a place like a church — but that letting it be on school grounds is going too far.
“You put it on a state-funded property, I’m not OK with it,” she told WFLA.
The station said Gentilesco brought up her grievances about the Bible verse to the school’s principal, who then checked in with the school district. The verdict? Pasco County Schools won’t be removing the Bible verse, WFLA said.
“It’s not a violation,” the district’s Public Information Officer Stephen Hegarty told the station. “This is personal expression.”
Hegarty added to WFLA that “there is no proselytizing going on; it’s not compelling students to do anything one way or the other.”
What’s more, he added to the station that the painted Bible verse on the parking lot space doesn’t reflect what students are being taught.
“It has nothing to do with instruction,” Hegarty told WFLA. “It’s just a teacher expressing themselves just like they might wear a crucifix on their shirt.” He added to the station that “teachers and students are free to express themselves.”