I am a frequent critic of idiocy in public education, and there is surely more than enough to go around. However, I do not reflexively buy the idea that all public schools are corrupt liberal bastions seeking only to indoctrinate our children to become good little socialists. Indeed, there are some schools and some communities where this may be more true than not, but not most schools and not most places.
But from time to time, reports surface that make me perform a face palm, perhaps even a double face palm. Sometimes my fellow educators do things that just make me cringe.
From Fox News, we discover that a substitute teacher in Phillipsburg, NJ has recently been fired for the egregious act of giving a student a Bible. Todd Starnes reports:
The Phillipsburg School Board voted Monday night to terminate the employment of Walter Tutka. He was accused of breaking two policies – distributing religious literature on school grounds and another policy that directs teachers to be neutral when discussing religious material.
No doubt this Tutka is a Bible-thumper who was harassing innocent students and trying to convert them? Not so much:
Tutka’s trouble started in October when he was standing by a door waiting on middle school students to enter the building. One student trailed behind the rest.
‘Just remember, son,’ Tutka told the tardy student, “The first shall be last but the last shall be first.”
A few days later the student asked about the origins of the quote. Tutka told him it was in the Bible.
‘Over the next few weeks, the young student asked about a half dozen times where the quote was from in the Bible,’ Imhof [a friend of Tutka and a member, with Tutka of Gideons International] told Fox News. ‘Walt kept forgetting to look it up.’
On Oct. 12th, Tutka was eating lunch in the cafeteria when the student approached and brought up the Bible verse. So Tutka took out his Bible and showed the student the verse.
At some point the student mentioned that he did not have a Bible.
‘Walt basically said, ‘would you like mine?”’Imhof said. ‘The student said yes and so Walt gave him his personal New Testament.
I’m sure the school district would be delighted to explain its actions? Not so much:
The school superintendent did not return multiple calls seeking comment.
Hiram Sasser the Liberty Institute’s director of litigation weighed in:
I am sure the school would have celebrated if the issue was a Koran or Hindu text, but this school sent the message that anything associated with the Bible, even good, old-fashioned intellectual curiosity, must be squelched at the source.
Chris Hussey, pastor of Tutka’s church, also offered an opinion:
Christianity is under attack in America. It seems our government officials are afraid of Muslims and yet they capitulate to them and any other religious group. But when it comes to Christians – they are completely intolerant of Christians.
A number of school districts have rules against distributing religious literature in schools. Such policies are commonly written to keep aggressive and less than mainstream groups from actively proselytizing on school grounds as they sometimes do. As a means of preventing annoying disruptions such policies are not inherently unreasonable. However, in application, they may well be unreasonable.
I have limited information here, but it would appear that Tutka’s “distributing religious materials” consisted of providing a single copy of a Bible to a student who repeatedly sought him out for the purpose of learning about first, a Bible verse, and later, for actually obtaining a Bible.
And regarding a policy having to do with religious neutrality, again, many districts have policies against proselytizing in school, but such activity actually refers to trying to convince students that a specific religion is the one, true religion and trying to convert them to that faith. With the material available, it would seem all Tutka did was to provide–at a student’s request–the origin of a quotation, and ultimately, a Bible. I know of no information suggesting Tutka went further.
Obviously, someone complained, but I’ve been unable to discover who, or the nature of any complaint. A local news source notes:
Tutka said at last month’s school board meeting that the student had approached him seven different times about the Bible passage when he subbed in the district, until he finally gave the student his Bible. He doesn’t know who notified the district, but the Bible was returned to him following the incident.
There is no question that there is no federal law that prohibits owning, carrying, displaying or reading a Bible or other religious books in schools. If a student is making a show of reading a Bible or otherwise being disruptive, the issue is not the book, but the behavior.
So the issue–absent more specific information–seems to be a school board being overly cautious–at the least–in removing Tutka from the approved list of substitute teachers.
And from WBAL.com in Maryland comes a story of what appears to be lunatic political correctness:
Two more Maryland school kids got into trouble for pointing their fingers playing cops and robbers at school.
Actually, in the Eastern Shore schoolyard during recess in this latest case.
It happened last week at White Marsh Elementary in Tabot County.
The two six year olds had been playing and were suspended for a day.
The father of one of the boys is in the Army and said he thinks the punishment was excessive for what amounted to horseplay between two first graders.
School officials declined comment citing federal confidentiality laws.
The mother of one of the boys said the principal told her the suspension in his case would be withdrawn.
A similar case recently in Silver Spring led to a first grader being suspended could lead to a lawsuit there.
I’ve often read of schools disciplining students for simulating guns with a variety of substitutes such as fingers, pens and pencils, or even in one case, a chicken finger in a cafeteria. As with the case of Mr. Tutka, I have only this news report for background information, but good grief! Are first grade boys no longer to behave like first grade boys?
I’m always amazed at teachers who become indignant when children behave like children. Didn’t anyone tell them they would be teaching–you know–children, and that those–you know–children–would occasionally behave like–you know–children?
I don’t know that this is a grotesque overreaction inspired by unthinking anti-gun sentiment, but such lack of thinking is often the motivation for this sort of behavior on the part of educators.
In any case, some actual adult needs to find the people involved in this, grab them by their narrow lapels, give them a good shaking, and bid them get a grip on themselves.