WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. - A teacher's form of religious expression on school grounds is not sitting right with some staff. It involves her parking space which she personalized by painting a Bible verse on it something Pasco County Schools says they have no problem with.
These 10 words are something Marina Gentilesco feels shouldn't be on school grounds.
"It said, Christ. I was startled by it. I was very upset by it," said Gentilesco, a Pasco County Schools employee.
The text is of the Bible verse Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".
According to Pasco County Schools, a teacher painted the verse on her paid parking spot at Wiregrass Ranch High School.
Gentilesco--who is Jewish--says she walks by it every day going into school.
"My parents are Holocaust survivors and I would never try to convince someone to change their faith. The Jews were murdered because they were Jews and Christians survived, and it just brought back the memories of what my parents went through," Gentilesco said.
Gentilesco went to administrators about her concerns. She also reached out to the Jewish Community Relations Council.
"A number of people may look at that as an endorsement of a specific religion by a governmental entity and that becomes potentially volatile of the establishment clause of the First Amendment," Jewish Community Relations Council Chair Jonathan Ellis stated.
After looking into the legality of it, Ellis—who's also an attorney--says they concluded they couldn't force the school to remove the verse partly because it's not necessarily directly related to an instructional aspect meant for students.
"Because the school is giving the teachers and the students a certain level of freedom to decorate their own space or to individualize their own space, it doesn't necessarily run into a violation of the establishment clause," Ellis said.
A district spokesperson emailed a statement to FOX 13 late Thursday.
"At several of our schools, students and/or staff are given the opportunity to personalize their specified parking space. There are no tax dollars involved and, so long as the image or message is not in poor taste, they are free to express themselves," the statement reads.
Regardless of the legality, Gentilesco says it just makes her feel uncomfortable.
"This was just innocent and I think it was just ignorance that she didn't realize that this would be a personal affront to me," Gentilesco said.