NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Officials in a western Louisiana school system and the American Civil Liberties union have settled a lawsuit sparked by the treatment of a Buddhist sixth-grader whose parents say he was harassed at a school where officials routinely pushed Christian beliefs.
The January lawsuit alleged, among other things, that a teacher at Negreet High School in Sabine Parish declared that Buddhism was stupid. It also said the school regularly incorporated Christian prayer into classes and school events and scrolled Bible verses on an electronic marquee in front of the school.”
It doesn't matter where you teach, what city or state, teachers have a mandate to treat each child with respect. From further investigation on my part:
The student, known as C.C., was asked by sixth-grade teacher Rita Roark to answer the following question on a test: “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” When C.C. failed to respond “Lord,” Roark responded “you’re stupid if you don’t believe in God.” She also frequently denigrated his Buddhist faith, as well as the Hindu faith, referring to both as “stupid.”
When his parents complained to Sabine Parish Superintendent Sara Ebarb, they were told that “this is the Bible belt,” so they should expect to find the Christian God in the classroom. Ebarb advised them that if they wanted an ungodly classroom, they should transfer C.C. to a school where “there are more Asians.”
This is where the story becomes personal for me. Roark is a science teacher. I am a science teacher. Roark is a Christian. I am a Christian. Roark used her faith to bully this student, and that makes me horrified. I am further shocked at the school administration’s decision to defend her behavior. People who should know better, SHOULD KNOW BETTER!!! Every single educator, at every level of the school district, broke the law. How is this possible? In the comments sections of some of these articles, commenters say, "Well, this is Louisiana, after all," or "You see this type of things in isolated, bible-thumping areas." There is no excuse for breaking the law. Period.
Several things bother me.
First, that a teacher could make it through their teacher education program, and not have been educated about the separation of church and state is abhorrent. The school clearly violated “the Free Exercise and Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” There is no excuse for forcing one’s religious beliefs upon another, especially from a position of power. Students may feel uncomfortable challenging their teachers – the teachers who are supposed to be there to give them, care for them, nurture them, and not harm them – that what they are saying is hurting them. For a student to repeatedly have his religion mocked by the entire school district is hateful and disgusting. That is detestable behavior by a “Christian.” (which I place in quotes, because Christians are not taught to treat others that way, in general)
Second, that this is a science teacher, demonstrates that this teacher doesn’t understand science. In this article, it states that “Among the defendants in the suit, aside from the school board, was science teacher Rita Roark, who taught students that "the earth was created by God 6,000 years ago, that evolution is 'impossible' and that the Bible is '100 percent true.'" I don’t understand how a teacher could have made it through undergraduate science classes with this fundamental misunderstanding of science! Are teacher education programs that produce science teachers so lacking in core science content that a science teacher can graduate, and not understand science? Because every science course I know – geology, biology, physics, chemistry, anatomy, microbiology – are approached scientifically, with “very gradual change over time” being the bedrock. There is no other way to understand the world. Things have slowly changed over millions and billions of years.
Finally, that Christians behave in this fashion? From the ACLU:
“Unfortunately, however, not everyone has reacted to the lawsuit with the same measured consideration as the school board. While C.C. and his family have received much support from the community (including from some local congregations) and from across the country, they also have been harassed via crank calls to their house and work. And last month, C.C.’s mother Sharon was accosted while doing yard work: Three people wearing KKK-type white hoods drove by her and shouted, “You fucking nigger Asian-loving bitch.
Had Sabine Parish proactively sought to comply with the Constitution in the first place, the Lanes would not have been forced to expose their family to such vitriol, harassment, and intimidation simply to assert their fundamental rights. We hope their experience and the consent decree will serve as important tools to educate Louisiana’s educators – public school officials – about real religious liberty.
Real religious liberty includes not only the right to express and practice your faith in school, which the consent decree protects, but also the right to be free from the religious coercion and alienation that occurs when a teacher or other school official tries to impose his or her beliefs during class or school events. Real religious liberty means that every child, regardless of faith, should feel welcome in our public schools.”
The most upsetting thing to me is that this school district used faith to lash out and bully this child, at every turn. The people who were supposed to protect him, harmed him. What if this child had been so upset that he killed himself? I believe that each and every school district in the country should be sitting down and talking to EVERY TEACHER about this story, and reminding teachers that Christian faith can either be used to make us better people, and how to express that, or it can be used as a weapon, to bully innocent children. The behavior of this teacher is shameful, and should open a dialogue about what we say, when we teach.