Ten-Year-Old Schoolyard Preacher Gets Fourth Suspension from School
May. 13, 1988
MARION, N.C. (AP) _ A 10-year-old schoolyard preacher who said he'd rather ''get gold and silver up in heaven than an education down here'' was suspended a fourth time Friday after refusing to stop proselytizing and go to class.
Duffey Strode, wearing a black jacket and carrying a zippered case apparently containing a Bible, spent 20 minutes on the grounds of Eastfield Elementary School quoting Scripture and hurling biblical epithets in a steady rain before Assistant Principal Shirley Ramsey handed out the suspension.
Duffey's younger siblings, Matthew, 5, and Pepper, 6, also have been suspended for defying school officials earlier this month in this western North Carolina town. Their mother, Robin Stode, said they also will likely be suspended again when they return to school May 19.
Mrs. Strode predicted the dispute would wind up in litigation.
''It's gone too far now,'' she said, adding that she has contacted an attorney through the Rutherford Institute, which she described as a non-profit Christian legal foundation based in Manassass, Va.
Mrs. Strode said the family moved to North Carolina in January 1987 after winning a lawsuit against city officials in a Pennslyvania town who had tried to prevent her husband, David, from street preaching.
''We came here to relax after winning the fight,'' she said of their earlier legal problems in Chambersburg, Pa. ''All we want is to have the right, the freedom to preach. We might lose it some day and we want to preserve it.''
Strode, a machinist, and the children preached at high school football games from a pickup truck last fall, and Strode has been seen proselytizing in business areas around town.
Mrs. Strode said it was her children's decision to preach.
''I told them if they want to go back and preach, that's fine,'' Mrs. Strode said in an interview at home Friday as Duffey and his sister watched a videocassette of ''The Goonies.'' Matthew stopped playing with a basketball long enough to nod his head when asked if he planned to preach again when his suspension ends.
Earlier, when asked if he felt pressured by parents, Duffey had said, ''No. They ain't. I want to do it.''
''After the first suspension, we asked them to stop preaching for a couple of days,'' Mrs. Strode said. ''It just about broke their hearts.''
The Strodes' battle with Eastfield Elementary began earlier in the spring. Strode said his sons had preached ''three or four times'' outside the school before Duffey was suspended on March 29 after refusing to be paddled for a scuffle with three other students. The fight apparently concerned Duffey's preaching.
Duffey was suspended a second time for five days for refusing to stop preaching on April 22. His third suspension, for 10 days, was April 28.
Mrs. Ramsey said students and teachers alike are showing signs of stress at Duffey's outbursts, in which he has called faculty members ''whoremongers,'' ''queers,'' ''fornicators'' and ''adulterers.''
''It bothers them (the teachers); it gives the reputation of the school and their reputation personally as being attacked,'' she said. ''If I had to go into a classroom right after that, I'm afraid I wouldn't be worth a great deal.''
She said parents have told her their children come home feeling upset. She also said the boy's behavior Friday may have been fanned by media attention.
Duffey arrived Friday morning by bicycle in a pouring rain to about 40 reporters and camermen awaiting his arrival and two satellite dishes erected on the front lawn.
When Mrs. Ramsey asked him to enter the school, he began:
''Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Thou shalt not commit adultery 3/8 You're guilty 3/8 Even your eyes are filled with adultery 3/8 Men can't keep their eyes off women and women can't keep their eyes off men. Adulterers shall be put to death and their blood shall be upon them 3/8''
Ignoring further pleas to come inside, he said, ''I'd rather get gold and silver up in heaven than an education down here.''
His mother told him to go inside and hand in his homework, which he did, emerging five minutes later with the letter of suspension.
The letter did not mention preaching but said Duffey was suspended for being insubordinate, refusing to abide by school policies, refusing to go along with Mrs. Ramsey into the school and disruptive behavior.
Mrs. Strode said the letter gave no indication about what future action would be taken against Duffey if he continued preaching upon his return.
''I guess the same thing will happen,'' she said.