Can You Give Some Advice to This Teacher?

This is a bit lengthy but please read it.

From the FAForums:

I believe I have been fired from my job due to being an atheist. I don’t know if I can prove it. I really don’t think I have any legal protection from what happened but if I do I want to know about it.

I am/was a high school English teacher at a high school in central Florida. I have been with the school for 3 years. I have had no reprimands of any kind. I have had no disciplinary actions and I have never been on any kind of improvement plan.

I teach both at-risk students and regular classes. My students have consistently scored better on state tests and maintained higher learning gains per year than is typical for these classes.

I am involved in school and community organizations. My students have worked after hours to create a large scale, 2-year project that created an outdoor classroom area and an art and poetry display for our school. This was recorded in the local newspaper. Parents, students and colleagues were all pleased with the outcome. My last yearly evaluation was perfect. I received the highest marks in all categories of evaluation. I have completed the National Board Certification process and I await my results this fall.

My personal record is also pristine. I do not engage in morally irresponsible behavior in any way. I do not have any “black marks” in my background. I have never done anything illegal. I have not even had a speeding ticket.

My relationships with my students are good. I have the expected number of disciplinary issues. That number is well within the average range for my school. I also maintain consistent contact with parents and family members at all time. I make my personal information available to all parents so that they can contact me at any time. I also make a point to contact every parent at least twice during a given term.

I do not outline my professional virtues as brag, but rather an indication that there are no performance-based issues that warrant my dismissal.

Neither is there an economic reason. My administrators stood up in a faculty meeting and announced that no teachers would be loosing their jobs due to budge cuts this year. They used this announcement to explain why teacher planning time was decreasing while class loads increase.

The only remaining likely possibilities are personal. Other teachers were kept on staff that have less effective history and greater difficulties with their occupation. I was let go despite a pristine record and strong performance.

I feel that my school administrators have decided that I am too liberal to remain at their school. I do not think they wanted to risk giving me tenure so they fired me before they had to.

I know that my atheism was common knowledge because it was discussed during lunch in the faculty lounge this past December. The conversation was not heated but people were bothered because I commented that maintaining a secular environment in schools was important because not everyone believed the same things. Maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut, but I naively believed my friends and co-workers would not get that excited about it. It did cause a small stir in the gossip chain for a while.

I also attempted to start a GSA club earlier in the school year. A student came and asked me to do it and I felt honor bound to agree. I knew my administrators wouldn’t like it but I also knew they were obligated to allow it. Ultimately the club fell through because of pressure from the administration. I gave in because I felt that they were correct in stating that the student in question was not responsible enough to handle such a controversial club.

I think the combination of these two things have led my administrators to decide I am not an appropriate fit for their school. I suspect that there is little that can be done. The evidence all seems circumstantial to me. No one ever said “you’re fired because you’re an atheist.” However, I do think that this is what happened.

My administrator withheld letters of recommendation from me while my county was doing the majority of the hiring at other schools. During that time I would have been given priority as an in-county applicant. I was not able to apply because the letters were withheld. Since then I have had one interview which went very well. I was sure I had the job. Then they called in my references and suddenly lost interest. I have not been able to even get an interview at the other high school in my county. I am afraid that I have not only been dismissed but also blacklisted.

I appreciate your time reading this long posting. If you know of any recourse that I may have in this situation I would greatly appreciate the advice.

The teacher says he will write a letter to the ACLU, but other advice would surely be helpful.

  • stogoe

    Man, that really sucks.

    On the plus-side, though, they may not have fired you because you’re an atheist. I’d say it’s more probable that you’ve been fired and blacklisted because you’re pro-GLBT enough to try and start a GSA at your school.

    …Yeah, I guess that’s not much of a plus side. What is wrong with America’s Wang?

  • Ron in Houston

    Check the local board policies and procedures. Since school districts in most states are governmental agencies, those policies and procedures are their “laws.”

    I also check with the state teacher group or union. Many state groups have advocacy staff that will fight for individual teachers.

  • http://amiable-atheist.blogspot.com amiable

    I don’t want to be cruel, but I was just wondering what level English this person taught? Because there were several grammatical errors.

    If you were in fact fired for your atheism and have enough evidence to indicate that, then you probably have a case. I don’t have any advice for actions, but it sounds like the ACLU would be a good route. Best of luck.

    It really is a shame that in the US we are apparently not adult enough to handle being around people who do not share our views.

  • cipher

    Sue, absolutely. If the ACLU can’t/won’t take the case, get the most aggressive lawyer you can find. Ordinarily, I might tell you to hold off, as it could jeopardize your chances of finding another job – but they’ve already screwed you in that area as well. They want to take away your livelihood? Fine – then let them pay. Sue the bastards. Bankrupt the fucking town.

    And get the HELL out of Florida.

  • Tom

    @amiable: not cruel, just pointless. The text was very clear — any minor errors did not confuse the issue.

    I wish this teacher the best of luck, but I can’t offer any further advice than Ron in Houston provided. Hopefully the teacher can use the school board’s rules against them.

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com Transplanted Lawyer

    Atheism is protected by federal and state laws prohibiting religious discrimination. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e makes an adverse employment decision (like termination) based on, among other things, religion an illegal employment practice. Atheism is treated as a “religion” for purposes of § 2000e and similar state-level anti-discrimination laws.

    If you are employed in the U.S., and you think you’re the victim of discrimination based on your atheism, you may also want to get in touch with a state anti-discrimination agency or the EEOC. This teacher would contact the Florida Commission on Human Relations. Because he is an employee of a state governmental agency, he probably must to go to the state agency rather than a field office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Either would do for private employment situations.

    If you want to file a lawsuit, you must contact a governmental agency like the EEOC or its local state equivalent first. You must have a document called a “right-to-sue” letter issued from this agency before a court will accept your lawsuit. Without this document, your case will be thrown out of court regardless of its merits.

    If you’re going to go this route, contact the government quickly because most laws require that you file a formal charge within 180 days of an incident of discrimination. There are exceptions to that rule, which are too complex to describe here; even if you are in an exception, you’re still better off acting sooner rather than later, so don’t procrastinate.

    The teacher here would profit from finding a qualified private attorney to talk to about the case. There are lawyers nearly everywhere with an interest in anti-discrimination or employment law. I admit it: lawyers like money, so they can be expensive. But a good anti-discrimination case is a money-maker. If you’ve got a strong case, some smart shopping around will eventually identify a lawyer willing to take a strong anti-discrimination case on a contingency basis, which means the lawyer will be paid in the form of a percentage of the money recovered rather than having to pay as you go at a high hourly rate.

    My guess would be that he’d have better luck finding such a lawyer in a large metro area. The Florida State Bar has a lawyer referral service that looks pretty good to me. The teacher should look for a lawyer who practices in “employment law” or “civil rights – business;” the practice area of the lawyer is more important than her geographical proximity to the school in question.

    Unfortunately, the case described in the article does not look very strong — the teacher goes out of his way to repeatedly state that there is no evidence that he was fired for atheism. (That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a factor, by the way. It means there is no overt evidence of anti-religious discrimination. A qualified employment lawyer will look deeper and ask more detailed kinds of questions about the facts of the case than we could possibly do here.) Sponsoring the GSA club also does not appear to be protected by either Federal or Florida law. But I’m not a Florida lawyer and so I can’t be certain of that under Florida Law, and I wouldn’t provide an analysis of any case in a public forum like this anyway.

    What I can do here is help steer you towards the right sort of professional, and identify the governmental entities that can help. I hope that does help, not just this teacher but anyone else who thinks they may have a discrimination problem on their hands.

  • http://mnatheists.org Bjorn Watland

    If you are a union member, you should be pretty safe. If not, it can be very difficult to prove wrongful termination, but a good employment lawyer goes a long way, as long as details have been written down.

  • kroyster

    I agree with cipher – contact the ACLU and/or a lawyer. If your performance is as highly regarded as you suggest, and you haven’t left out any other negative performance details, then it seems to me that you have a good case that your liberal/atheist views were the only reason for your firing. In some states (such as NC, where my wife teaches) they can fire teachers without giving a reason. Perhaps FL is the same. I’m no lawyer, but even then it seems that if you can prove that your firing was based on political/religious views, then this would fall under discrimination and could be ruled in your favor. However, keep in mind that this will make your atheism even more public than it already is, so be sure that is something you are prepared to accept.

  • cipher

    a good employment lawyer goes a long way, as long as details have been written down.

    Yes… document everything!

  • LeAnn

    As a couple other people have said, I would definitely contact the local teacher’s union in your district. The unions generally have lawyers that can help in situations like this. I would also make sure that you have all sorts of documentation to prove your record of being a good teacher without any disciplinary actions before this. For example, at my school each year we receive our end of year evaluations that show how we had been assessed that year. I would have all of those documents to show the lawyer to help make your case of being an excellent teacher prior to this firing. If there is not a union in your local area, I would contact the state teacher’s union. If none of those options work, I would definitely contact the ACLU.

  • Saint Splattergut

    I would have been totally bewildered if I faced this situation myself, in my country of residence. I would have been at a total loss. Your suggestions are all admirable and part of the reason why I read this website is because the postings give me a glimpse of another world where “civil rights” exist, complete with tooth and nail.

    Compare this to what one of ministers in my country said, “Whether the human rights body we establish will have teeth, I don’t know. But it would certainly have a tongue, and I hope it would have a sharp tongue.”

    Yeah, if this happens I guess the same dude might suggest the lawyers to come to the school and lick the dean all over with their sharp, penetrating tongues.

  • kroyster

    Did this teacher make any classroom comments or have discussions with any students regarding atheism? Such comments could be construed as proselytizing, which could be valid grounds for dismissal.

  • David Crespo

    I agree that it was really the GSA thing that probably did the guy in.

  • Ron in Houston

    I’d draw everyone’s attention to this post by vjack.

    My opinion is that while we may bemoan the fact, being an outspoken atheist can be detrimental to your career. It certainly can be for a private employer.

    It’s an unfortunate fact that you have a constitutional right to free speech but no such right to your job.

  • cipher

    It’s an unfortunate fact that you have a constitutional right to free speech but no such right to your job.

    Ron, am I correct in my understanding that one has a constitutional right not to lose that job due to one’s exercise of free speech (including freedom of religion)?

  • Freak

    There is no such constitutional right. It may, however, be a violation of one of the Civil Rights Acts.

  • cipher

    There is no such constitutional right. It may, however, be a violation of one of the Civil Rights Acts.

    Actually, I think that’s what I meant.

  • Pingback: Possible Atheist Descrimination in Florida | Heathenz

  • http://maidden.livejournal.com/ maidden

    Here’s why he was fired:

    no teachers would be loosing their jobs

    From an English teacher? Unacceptable!

  • Jason

    If they fired you for being an atheist, then you should expect to be enjoying a beach house, a Corvette, and all of the delicious babies you could ever eat.

  • Chris Nowak

    Yeah some schools get REALLY pissy about the GSA thing. My sister did some volunteer work with an organization that was trying to get more GSA organizations started in high schools. She and some other volunteers had to call around to various schools and ask the principal or other school officials if they were interested in starting one. One principal (of a public school) they weren’t even able to reach, so they left a message – and he called back and yelled at them for even asking.

    There’s the whole mysterious “homosexual agenda” that some people are still so afraid of. My family got letters about it and as a really young kid I actually read one of them and took it seriously until I asked someone about it. The gist of it was that there are teachers and organizations that have been “infiltrated” by gay people who are bent on turning your children gay. Just ridiculous.

  • ubi dubius

    Ron may be referring to Justice Holmes’ old opinion:

    “For most of this century, the unchallenged dogma was that a public employee had no right to object to conditions placed upon the terms of employment—including those which restricted the exercise of constitutional rights. The classic formulation of this position was Justice Holmes’, who, when sitting on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, observed: ‘A policeman may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman.’ McAuliffe v. Mayor of New Bedford, 155 Mass. 216, 220, 29 N.E. 517, 517 (1892).” Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138, 103 S.Ct. 1684, 75 L.Ed.2d 708 (1983).

    The Supreme Court has done much to protect public employees’ freedom of speech, especially regarding teachers, during the last few decades. The “no right to be a policeman” is no longer the law.

    My advice, as an attorney, is to look to the union for help. If there is none or it won’t help, a good attorney’s advice is invaluable. Groups like the ACLU or Americans United could help. We’d look at whether the school administration followed its own procedures in the firing; whether the administrator committed defamation in the references; what the administrator said to others about the reason for the firing. If the firing was based on religion or the GSA group, I think there may be a constitutional claim. Remember, in addition to freedom of speech and religion, the first amendment also protects the right to assemble.

    A friend of mine practices in the area of employment cases involving the federal government. He had a manager on the stand in a case in which a person was fired for refusing to work on Saturdays which was because of his Seventh Day Adventist religious views. All the manager had to say was, “he was fired because he refused to work on Saturday and working Saturday is a necessary condition of employment” and stick to that. But no, the manager said, “he was fired because he was a Seventh Day Adventist.” People say the darnedest things once under oath.

  • snoozebar

    No, your civil rights were violated. From Google Law School: “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)…prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;”

    Go find a lawyer. Now. Document, document, document, document. File a complaint with the EEOC (http://www.eeoc.gov, Florida offices here: http://www.eeoc.gov/miami/area.html)

    Finding a lawyer is the most important part, I think. You (and we) don’t know what the laws are and you might hurt your case by flailing around on your own.

    Good luck. Be persistent! They’re all going to try to make you go away, but really…don’t go away.

  • http://www.bloglongisland.com Sam Sutter

    That’s a tough one… i mean it’s hard to prove cause of termination… obviously the letter assumes it’s because of religion – because that’s the gossip that he heard… but it could be any number of other things… maybe they’re racist, maybe the administrator hates PC users… or Philadelphia Eagles fans – I think it’s hard to come up with a case unless atheism is the only thing that makes this teacher unique.

  • Gabriel

    Absolutly, contact your union or the state union however it works in Florida. Also contact the ACLU and sue. Write down everything you can remember with as much detail as you can remember/verify. Get copies of all of your evaluations, recomendation letters, anything you can get to support you case. Make lists of other teachers who can support your version of events so that your lawyer can depose them as soon as possible. If your lawyer thinks it is good idea contact the media or a group like American’s United for the Seperation of Church and State. Some one to be your public voice in this. The school district will do it’s best to deystroy your reputation. Fight.

  • Justin jm

    If he can’t prove that he was fired because of his lack of belief, then I echo cipher’s sentiment; get the heck outta Dodge and go to a more liberal state like California or Massachusetts where this probably couldn’t happen there.

    Good luck!

  • irspariah

    By far the best move is just to get the fuck out of Florida. Truly the most useless place on this planet!

  • http://thescienceethicist.blogspot.com/ Aerik

    We need to know the exact address of the school, it’s name….

  • http://www.americanhumanist.org Bob Ritter

    The advice of Transplanted Lawyer is excellent.

    Quoting from Transplanted Lawyer: “If you are employed in the U.S., and you think you’re the victim of discrimination based on your atheism, you may also want to get in touch with a state anti-discrimination agency or the EEOC. This teacher would contact the Florida Commission on Human Relations. Because he is an employee of a state governmental agency, he probably must to go to the state agency rather than a field office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Either would do for private employment situations.

    “If you want to file a lawsuit, you must contact a governmental agency like the EEOC or its local state equivalent first. You must have a document called a “right-to-sue” letter issued from this agency before a court will accept your lawsuit. Without this document, your case will be thrown out of court regardless of its merits.”

    And do so QUICKLY, as the clock is ticking. There is a time limits on bringing employment (and other) cases.

    I would suggest that you contact an attorney who specializes in EMPLOYMENT law ASAP (and not a general practitioner, or one who specializes in real estate, wills and trusts, personal injury etc.) Also, make sure that the attorney is not biased against atheists and LGBTs.

    A number of persons suggested that the fired teacher contact the American Civil Liberties Union or Americans United. These two groups do not generally take employment cases, especially where the evidence does not support a clear cut civil liberties violation (e.g., religious discrimination by federal, state or local government). (I am a member of both organizations and serve on a local chapter board of the ACLU. Their both great, but not for this purpose.)

    Last, the blog does not state the official reason the school gave for firing the teacher. I was part of a downsizing by from a large computer company in 1994 and told that my “performance” was at the bottom of the unit that I was in. Baloney. What the company did was add a significant number of subjective criteria with objective criteria to get an overall rating to the point where a management team to get rid of any one whom they thought didn’t fit in. My guess is that this is what happened to the teacher.

    So to the teacher I say: see an employment law attorney NOW and fight back.

  • Polly

    but people were bothered because I commented that maintaining a secular environment in schools was important because not everyone believed the same things.

    Of course they were! You thought you were in a school, but you found out you were in an indoctrination center.

    Schools are designed to instill conformity and blind worship of arbitrary authority and inculcation into the nationalist cult.

    There is no other purpose of school – private or public. The education in technical skills is for show or for augmenting the labor force. Most things could easily be learned on-the-job at an earlier age. But the system needs you to go through processing first. This is where they crush your spirit and any freethinking tendencies you may possess while erecting walls around your worldview by lying to you about the world.

    Once the lower classes have been sifted, the future administrators (middle-managers) of the national wealth can go to college, where there is some level of REAL education.

    But, again, your brains are mostly channeled into either more advanced technical training, or philosophical areas. Whatever debate or protest against the system may occur is well insulated and restricted to academia.

    Once you’re out you’re burdened with loan repayments and soon forget any lofty ideals while trying to survive the daily grind of work and family. You are in a word, neutralized.

    The legacies learn how the world really functions and they take the reins from their robber-barron forebears.

    I still wouldn’t mind being a teacher, though .Best of luck to you. I hope you get your job back and don’t move away. That they reject you shows how much you are needed.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ hoverFrog

    I’m a little confused. In England we have to give a reason for firing someone and even a reason for making the job redundant. Is this not the case in the land of the free where all men are created equal?

  • Rachel

    @hoverFrog: I believe it depends. For most people, you can be fired at will, meaning your employer can let you go for any reasonable reason, as long as the firing isn’t for unreasonable reasons, like you’re a girl. Or an atheist. They don’t even have to tell you the reason.

    There are some jobs where you must be fired for cause. (Meaning you can’t do your job, or you stole too many pens from the supply closet.) I believe those are mostly union jobs, but that might be a dirty lie. I don’t know for sure. I know my one (nonunion) government job was like that. Once you pass your vetting period, they can’t get rid of you.

    In general, I don’t think firing at will is a awful idea. It keeps our job market flexible and dynamic since companies can create and discard jobs as they need to. I might feel different if I’d ever been laid off, but so far, so good.

  • Kate

    @amiable: There is a corollary to Murphy’s Law stating that any criticism of spelling or grammar will contain at least one misspelled word or grammatical error. You have, unfortunately, fallen victim to this rule. The following was a fragment “Because there were several grammatical errors.”

  • David D.G.

    I am inclined to echo a bit of what hoverFrog said. Over and over, this teacher indicates that he is just guessing that he was fired for being an atheist and/or a liberal (and the GSA club issue is a strong possibility as a particular issue that got people’s hackles up). But nowhere does he say what he was told was the reason for his being let go. What did the administration claim was the reason for this firing?

    Nobody gets fired without being given some reason for it; even if the reason is obviously false or is just plain lame (and I have been on the receiving end of both), one is invariably given. So what was he told was the reason for his firing, and can this claim be substantially refuted? If nothing else, that’s the first question any lawyer will undoubtedly ask. Until that’s done, there’s nowhere to go in establishing anything else as an alternate justification for the firing.

    ~David D.G.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ hoverFrog

    There is a difference between sacking a person because of some unsuitability for the job and making a job redundant because there is no need for the position. With the former you should show the unsuitability and have made reasonable efforts to correct it through discipline and training. With the latter you should show that the requirement for the job no longer exists. That’s how it is in England anyway.

    There is also a reasonable probationary period where the candidate’s suitability for the job is assessed. They can be released from their contract with no blame during this period.

  • Desert Son

    Polly wrote:

    Schools are designed to instill conformity and blind worship of arbitrary authority and inculcation into the nationalist cult.

    There is no other purpose of school – private or public.

    I call bullshit.

    Many of my scholastic experiences, at various levels, were instrumental in helping me learn to think more for myself, and at no school did I ever receive “inculcation into the nationalist cult.”

    There are numerous, significant problems in schools in this nation and around the world, to be sure. There may be some examples of certain schools that actually do have “no other purpose” than indoctrination, but that’s not all schools, not by a long shot.

    But thanks for painting with as broad a brush as possible.

    No kings,

    Robert

  • Polly

    Many of my scholastic experiences, at various levels, were instrumental in helping me learn to think more for myself

    ,

    Individual teachers can, and do, help. They are not on board with the program. It’s the system itself. I’m glad your educators were not hamstrung in their efforts or resigned to the status quo.

    and at no school did I ever receive “inculcation into the nationalist cult.”

    I hope that’s true. Of course, you mat not even know it, if you are. I have no desire to conduct interviews for every particular case. Judging by the atmosphere around me, exceptions are in a small minority.

    This may all sound like Bullshit to you and that’s OK. I expect no other reaction, especially if your experiences appear to deviate from what I’ve described.

    But thanks for painting with as broad a brush as possible

    Sometimes it takes someone to highlight the broadstrokes in order to expand the perspective and see the whole picture. So…you’re welcome.

  • Desert Son

    Polly wrote:

    I hope that’s true. Of course, you mat not even know it, if you are . . . This may all sound like Bullshit to you and that’s OK. I expect no other reaction, especially if your experiences appear to deviate from what I’ve described.

    Ah, now I recognize you. You’re one of those rare individuals with Sole Access To The Truth(tm). Far be it from me to debate such important matters with one of your elevated perspective, especially since I may have been “inculcated” and not even know it, and also since my experiences only “appear” to deviate from what you’ve described. After all, I went to school, so how can I possibly be trusted?

    No kings,

    Robert

  • http://skeptigator.com Skeptigator

    I’m with hover on this one, what was the reason given? I find it hard to believe that *no* reason was given.

    I suppose with a teacher you could be told that your contract or whatever wasn’t renewed for the upcoming school year and that might be the end of it. I would still at least try and get a reason, and *document* the answer.

  • Ron in Houston

    The civil rights act only applies to government. Fortunately, school districts are governmental agencies.

  • Polly

    @Desert Son

    After all, I went to school, so how can I possibly be trusted?

    Exactly! You might be one of THEM! :P
    But seriously, why are you taking this personally?

    You’re one of those rare individuals with Sole Access To The Truth(tm)

    I don’t claim to have sole access to the Truth(TM). What I do have is a perspective that encompasses and accounts for a lot of my personal observations.

    I also consider many religious people to be under a delusion. Am I arrogant for that, too?

  • Ubi Dubium

    I forwarded a link to this story to Americans United – they might have some helpful advice on the subject.

  • Desert Son

    Polly wrote:

    But seriously, why are you taking this personally?

    Not taking it personally. Merely took issue that, instead of employing enough specificity to reinforce your point, you made an all-encompassing statement about schools. When I cited my own experience as different from the broad statement you made, such response prompted you to suggest I might not be able to trust my own experience. At that point, I responded as I did because how can we possibly continue to communicate if, by virtue of my experience, my experience is suspect? I called you on an issue of generalization and tried to cite experience of something that eliminated the need to make that generalization, and in response, was told that I might not even know my experience to be valid, which is like saying “I made a generalization, and the experience of someone to the contrary is suspect by virtue of contrariness to the generalization.”

    What I do have is a perspective that encompasses and accounts for a lot of my personal observations.

    Funny, that’s what I thought I had when I made the counterproposal about the generalization against schools, q.v. above about the response that generated.

    I also consider many religious people to be under a delusion.

    Polly, we’re in grave danger of finding common ground.

    Am I arrogant for that, too?

    I have no idea why you’re arrogant. ;)

    No kings,

    Robert

  • cipher

    Also, make sure that the attorney is not biased against atheists and LGBTs.

    Very sound advice. I’d look in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale (sizable gay community there), or the Boca Raton/Delray/Boynton Beach area – these are where they keep the liberals.

  • stogoe

    But seriously, why are you taking this personally?

    Possibly because you’re full of it, and you seem like you ran out of tin foil a few years ago? I mean, honestly, you’re hip-deep in black helicopter water-fluoridation bigfoot Area-51 territory. Really: listen to yourself.

    Desert Son wrote:

    There are numerous, significant problems in schools in this nation and around the world, to be sure.

    Absolutely true, and raving like a lunatic that “the schools are out to laser-indoctrinate your podlings with the glavin and the nationalistic-cult-murmurings” doesn’t help. Worse, it obfuscates the real problems with bat-shit googley-eyed insanities.

  • cipher

    Stogoe, I have seen the glavin, and it is us!

  • Polly

    @Desert Son

    When I cited my own experience as different from the broad statement you made, such response prompted you to suggest I might not be able to trust my own experience

    (We are on the precipice of agreement.)
    This is what I thought my response was, to your experiences – copied from above.

    Individual teachers can, and do, help. They are not on board with the program. It’s the system itself. I’m glad your educators were not hamstrung in their efforts or resigned to the status quo.

    I retract the word “appear.”

    As far as whether you personally have been inculcated, the point of my cheeky answer is that…because I don’t know you personally, I have no way of settling the question for myself. Even then, I don’t feel qualified to make any kind of ultimate determination for you or even myself. I am quite sure I am under some influence that if I were to suddenly become aware of it, I’d reject it out of hand.

    If what I said in my initial post resonates with anyone, then they should check themselves, if they are so inclined, to see if they’ve been accepting assumptions unexamined that were drilled into them while in school. To a great extent, I understand the process of maturing as rooting out false premises and indoctrination. And I attribute much of that brainwashing to school and family.

  • Polly

    @stogoe

    Possibly because you’re full of it, and you seem like you ran out of tin foil a few years ago?

    Nonsense! I am adequately stocked for years!

    I mean, honestly, you’re hip-deep in black helicopter water-fluoridation bigfoot Area-51 territory. Really: listen to yourself.

    Really? Does it really seem that incredible to you? On par with big-foot?

    and raving like a lunatic that “the schools are out to laser-indoctrinate your podlings with the glavin and the nationalistic-cult-murmurings” doesn’t help.

    I don’t recall mentioning anything about lasers.

    Listen, nothing I suggested is nearly as far-fetched or as dependent on advanced technology as you’ve described. The very fact that it’s common knowledge that virtually every nation on Earth has indoctrinated its children in schools speaks to the strength of my contention. Your wise-ass, knee-jerk response, is symptomatic of the “it couldn’t happen here” mentality.

    You want to limit discussion to low math scores? That’s your business. I find the whole system to be unacceptable.

  • apYrs

    I write as a foreigner – British – and thus don’t know US labour law. However, I can offfer comments that seem common sense.

    If you’re sacked when others with worse records or less service haven’t been, then there must be questions asked, and justification given: equity of treatment for public service is a given.

    Getting copies of the reference should be a priority. While it is probably privileged, it must be accurate; if not, even in the US, libel laws obtain.

    Take advice from your union if you’re in one, and cetainly UCLA.

    Good luck: free thinkers always get hassle from the superstitionists – I hope they don’t win, but the US does have a reputation of being infested by fundies and bigots (although they’re the noisy ones that get noticed)

  • Xeonicus

    The one thing I agree with Polly on: The American school system sucks. The United State’s already has enough trouble in the global economy without having to deal with inept retards being spit out by our High Schools. I don’t think it’s enough to admit that our schools “have problems”. Our schools have friggin’ serious problems, and if we don’t reform them, say goodbye to Rome, because Asia is prepping a can of whoopass.

  • rae

    Wow there is a lot here.
    First of all do you belong to a teacher’s union? Most new teachers are hired in a three year probation period so they may not have had to give you a reason why they let you go, however with holding the letters of recommendation and keeping you from finding a new job seems very out of line and a rep from your union should be called. It doesn’t matter if you get a new job in another district that is not okay.
    Second I agree it could be that you tried to sponsor the Gay and lesbian association. But there is a chance it was your atheism. I don’t feel teachers should voice there political and religious beliefs openly to their students, you said you did this in front of faculty though. I would still caution you against this. I work in a small school and my co-workers and I are close and hanging out outside of work, so they know I am an atheist. But the students and parents do not know.
    My principal is a Christian and she knows I am liberal and support a non-religious curriculum and she agrees with me.
    Even though you did a great job at this school and they decided for some reason you are not a fit if you search your heart I think you may find they were not a fit for you. Don’t you want to be at a school where you can sponsor a GBA club? It is very awful what happened but I think in the end you will find a better home else where.
    Good luck.

  • Ron in Houston

    OK, before all those internet lawyers go out and spout that it’s discrimination based upon religion (I have no idea), does anyone have a case on point that says atheists are a protected group under the Federal anti-discrimination statute?

    I’m not saying its not, but the reason I didn’t tell the person to go contact the EEOC was that I wasn’t sure that atheism qualifies.

    I’d love it if any of you folks out in cyberspace could enlighten me. You’d be doing a valuable public service.

  • Ron in Houston

    Dammit, I hate it when I answer my question just after I ask it.

    From the EEOC website:

    1. What is “religion” under Title VII?

    Title VII protects all aspects of religious observance and practice as well as belief and defines religion very broadly for purposes of determining what the law covers. For purposes of Title VII, religion includes not only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or that seem illogical or unreasonable to others. An employee’s belief or practice can be “religious” under Title VII even if the employee is affiliated with a religious group that does not espouse or recognize that individual’s belief or practice, or if few – or no – other people adhere to it. Title VII’s protections also extend to those who are discriminated against or need accommodation because they profess no religious beliefs.

    Religious beliefs include theistic beliefs (i.e. those that include a belief in God) as well as non-theistic “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.” Although courts generally resolve doubts about particular beliefs in favor of finding that they are religious, beliefs are not protected merely because they are strongly held. Rather, religion typically concerns “ultimate ideas” about “life, purpose, and death.” Social, political, or economic philosophies, as well as mere personal preferences, are not “religious” beliefs protected by Title VII.

    Religious observances or practices include, for example, attending worship services, praying, wearing religious garb or symbols, displaying religious objects, adhering to certain dietary rules, proselytizing or other forms of religious expression, or refraining from certain activities. Whether a practice is religious depends on the employee’s motivation. The same practice might be engaged in by one person for religious reasons and by another person for purely secular reasons (e.g., dietary restrictions, tattoos, etc.).

    Discrimination based on religion within the meaning of Title VII could include, for example: not hiring an otherwise qualified applicant because he is a self-described evangelical Christian; a Jewish supervisor denying a promotion to a qualified non-Jewish employee because the supervisor wishes to give a preference based on religion to a fellow Jewish employee; or, terminating an employee because he told the employer that he recently converted to the Baha’i Faith.

    Similarly, requests for accommodation of a “religious” belief or practice could include, for example: a Catholic employee requesting a schedule change so that he can attend church services on Good Friday; a Muslim employee requesting an exception to the company’s dress and grooming code allowing her to wear her headscarf, or a Hindu employee requesting an exception allowing her to wear her bindi (religious forehead marking); an atheist asking to be excused from the religious invocation offered at the beginning of staff meetings; an adherent to Native American spiritual beliefs seeking unpaid leave to attend a ritual ceremony; or an employee who identifies as Christian but is not affiliated with a particular sect or denomination requests accommodation of his religious belief that working on his Sabbath is prohibited.

  • Slut

    Seems to me before I’d fly off the handle and go hiring a lawyer I’d ask for a meeting with the administrator and find out what the issue is, and what I could have done differently/better. Maybe you’d learn something. Performance reviews don’t always tell you everything.

    I might also have a friend call us pretending to be doing a background check and see what the school says. Document/record whatever is said.

    Like it or not, personality DOES affect your employability. This may not even have anything to do with your political or religious views. It’s just a question of “gets along well with others.”

    Of course if you do find out the issue is your political/religious views, sue the pants off the bastards.

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com Transplanted Lawyer

    Slut raises a good point about personality being a significant factor in employment. If you’re an a-hole, you’re much more likely to get yourself fired. And you will likely never know if you have a reputation for being an a-hole.

    But with that said, I think that you have much more to lose than to gain in a face-to-face meeting with the people who fired you, at least if you’re even willing to consider the idea of a lawsuit later. If they’re lawyered up (and they will be) the only reason they’d have to agree to such a meeting would be to elicit admissions from you about your own faults and their own non-discriminatory intent, which they will use against you later.

    Sadly, that leaves you having to make a decision based on incomplete information. But such is life.

  • Pseudonym

    By the way, this may also be the sort of thing that Americans United takes an interest in, as well as the ACLU.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    Whatever happens, I hope we can hear how it all turns out.

  • Polly

    Whatever happens, I hope we can hear how it all turns out.

    Yeah, please keep us posted.

    We’ll be praying for ya’!…j.k :D

  • Tao Jones

    There is a difference between being fired because of your religion and being fired because of the actions you took because of your religion.

    If the administration didn’t say you were fired because you’re an atheist, why did they say you were being fired?

    I also found this amusing….

    … no teachers would be loosing their jobs …

  • Bob Smith

    You are probably too liberal for the community. It’s a combination of atheism, GSA, and most likely dress, hairstyle, and how outward you were in your opinions. Did you have ‘heated’ exchanges regarding atheism? Did any others help support you with the GSA? Did people consider you the ‘hippie.’

    Odds are they are smart enough not to outright say why you got the axe. Even if you know, you have to prove it. It becomes he said she said.

    It seems to me you should take the experience as a lesson about the real world. If I were a principal of a school in a conservative area, then the outright atheist who wants to start up a GSA would be nothing but headaches… regardless of my own feelings. It may not be so much about what you believe, but that you were causing others extra work. You may not fully realize how others perceive you, especially if you don’t know why you were fired.

  • http://amiable-atheist.blogspot.com amiable

    Kate: I’m not an English teacher, and this person is. So it is not pointless to bring up that there were several noticeable grammatical errors. For an English teacher that is a bit odd.


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