High Schooler Writes Article About Discrimination Against Atheists; School Refuses to Publish It

Krystal Myers is exactly the kind of student you want at your high school: editor of the school paper, captain of the swim team, honors student. But based on how her administrators are treating her, it’s like they wish she didn’t attend the school at all.

Krystal Myers (Adam Brimer - News Sentinel)

Why the opposition? Krystal wrote an article for the school paper, the Panther Press, about discrimination against atheists and the proselytizing going on at the school:

“Why does atheism have such a bad reputation? Why do we not have the same rights as Christians?” she wrote.

Myers’ editorial also accused school administrators, teachers and coaches of violating the constitution by promoting “pro-Christian” beliefs during school-sponsored events.

Myers gives other examples in Lenoir City of what she believes are constitutional violations, including T-shirts worn by a teacher that depict the crucifix and a “Quote of the day” that teachers write on the boards in the classroom.

The quotes often include Bible verses, she said.

Sounds like she’s blowing the door wide open on unconstitutional practices at the school. But the school isn’t doing anything to fix the problems.

Instead, they’re suppressing her article.

Schools Director Wayne Miller said it was the decision of the school authorities not to allow publication of Myers’ editorial because of the potential for disruption in the school.

“We do have the right to control the content of the school paper if we feel it is in the best interest of the students,” he said.

Disruption?! She would be making people think! What sort of messed up school wants to prevent that?!

Lenoir City High School may not want her article to be read by anyone, but that’s what the Internet is for. The article is already out there (PDF). Give it a read and spread it around. The emphases below are mine.

No Rights: The Life of an Atheist

By Krystal Myers

The point of view expressed in this article does not necessarily reflect the point of view of the Panther Press, its staff, adviser, or school.

As a current student in Government, I have realized that I feel that my rights as an Atheist are severely limited and unjust when compared to other students who are Christians. Not only are there multiple clubs featuring the Christian faith, but youth ministers are also allowed to come onto school campus and hand candy and other food out to Christians and their friends. However, I feel like if an Atheist did that, people would not be happy about it. This may not be true, but due to pervasive negative feelings towards Atheists in the school, I feel that it would be the case. My question is, “Why? Why does Atheism have such a bad reputation?” And an even better question, “Why do Christians have special rights not allowed to non-believers?”

Before I even begin, I just want to clear up some misconceptions about Atheism. No, we do not worship the “devil.” We do not believe in God, so we also do not believe in Satan. And we may be “godless” but that does not mean that we are without morals. I know, personally, I strive to be the best person I can be, even without religion. In fact, I have been a better person since I have rejected religion. And perhaps the most important misconception is that we want to convert everyone into Atheists and that we hate Christians. For the most part, we just want to be respected for who we are and not be judged.

Now you should know exactly what an Atheist is. Dictionary.com says that an Atheist is, “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.” However, this does not mean that Atheists do not believe in higher causes; we just do not believe in a higher being.

With that being said, I can move on to the real issue. Before I begin, I want you to think about your rights and how your perceived “rights” might be affecting the rights of others.

There are several instances where my rights as a non-believer, and the rights of anyone other than a Christian, have been violated. These instances inspired me to investigate the laws concerning the separation of church and state, and I learned some interesting things. However, first, I would like you to know specifically what my grievances are against the school. First and foremost is the sectarian prayer that occurs at graduation every year. Fortunately, I am not the first one to have thought that this was a problem. In the Supreme Court case, Lee v. Weisman, it was decided that allowing prayer at graduation is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment that says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Special speakers can pray, but the school cannot endorse the prayer or plan for it to happen.

Public prayer also occurs at all of the home football games using the public address system. This has, again, been covered by the Supreme Court case Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe. The Court ruled that school-sponsored prayer is an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. If a speaker prays, it is fine. However, as soon as the school provides sponsorship, it becomes illegal. Sponsorship can be almost anything, even something as simple as saying that the speaker can pray or choosing a speaker with a known propensity to pray or share his or her religious views.

However, it is not just the speakers who we have to fear at Lenoir City High School. We also have to fear some of the teachers and what they might say about their own religious beliefs. On at least two separate occasions, teachers have made their religious preferences known to basically the whole school.

One teacher has made her religious preferences known by wearing t-shirt depicting the crucifix while performing her duties as a public employee. Also, Kristi Brackett, a senior at Lenoir City High School, has said that the teacher, “strongly encouraged us to join [a religious club] and be on the group’s leadership team.” Yet again, this violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. When asked if this was true, the teacher replied, “As a teacher I would never use my power of influence to force my beliefs or the beliefs of [a religious club] on any student in the school.” Regardless, the religious t-shirts are still inappropriate in the school setting. Teachers are prohibited from making their religious preferences known; the Constitution requires them to be neutral when acting in their capacity as a public school teacher.

Not only are religious preferences shown through shirts, but also through a “Quote of the Day” that some teachers write on the boards in their classrooms. One teacher has Bible verses occasionally as the teacher’s “Quote of the Day” for students. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment has been violated, yet again with no regard for non-believers.

But perhaps I would have more hope in our school and the possibility of change on the horizon if our own school board did not open their meetings with prayer. A person who wished to remain anonymous that has been present at school board meetings says, “They do have prayers. They pray to ‘Our Heavenly Father’ and end with ‘In Jesus’ Name We Pray.’” Not only is this a violation of Supreme Court law, but also a violation of the board’s own policy that prohibits prayer at school-sponsored events. The whole foundation of how our school is conducted is established by obvious Christians. Somehow, this is unsurprising. If our School Board chooses to ignore the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Supreme Court, then it is no surprise that teachers choose to do the same.

I know that I will keep trying to gain my rights as an Atheist and as an American citizen, but I also need your help in educating other people to realize the injustice done to all minority groups. The Christian faith cannot rule the United States. It is unconstitutional. Religion and government are supposed to be separate. If we let this slide, what other amendments to the Constitution will be ignored? I leave you
to decide what you will or will not do, but just remember that non-believers are not what you originally thought we were; we are human beings just like you.

It’s a fair editorial. There are no cheap shots. Myers doesn’t name names, but she points out examples of religious proselytizing in the school. The only “disruption” this would cause is that students might realize their teachers and coaches are doing something illegal when they push their faith upon the students. It might educate them. It might spur them to take action.

The school ought to be ashamed of itself. They should publish this piece in their next issue, along with an apology to Myers. Then they need to reprimand the teachers who think they work in a church, the people who lead prayers before football games, and put a stop to the school board’s illegal practices.

If they don’t, the ACLU, Americans United, and FFRF ought to check out Myers’ leads to see if there’s a lawsuit waiting to be filed.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    That wonderful, beautiful, brave evil little thing . . .

    • Anonymous

       I wonder if we can get “evil little thing” up to meme status as a compliment…

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

        Someone get that young lady a tee-shirt…

      • Eivind Kjorstad

         Oh definitely. Already, google reports 1 million hits for that specific phrase, and every hit on the first page of the search-results is to this specific incident.

  • FSq

    Brave girl, and good for her, but to point it out yet again, it is in a southern state.

    WTF goes on down there?

    It seems like it is almost always the south.

    • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa

       The Bible Belt is fastened too tightly, cutting off circulation to America’s lower regions.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/NISTSJ7BP5PPFJVBRAH54NP76A BlankSlate

        You’re right. I live in GA and can’t wait to leave after I graduate college several months from now.

        • Nude0007

          There you go, run away from the very place that needs you most. The south will never change unless people stick around to instigate those changes. Coward! Try standing up for what you believe in!

          I live in Mississippi.

          • Anonymous

            The South hasn’t changed much anyways, given the many political movements it’s experienced. I doubt it’ll ever change and quite frankly, I don’t have time to play ambassador of reason for the incorrigible ignorance the American South. 

      • http://twitter.com/notlobau John

        The dumbing down continues! maybe one day the ignorance will end.

        • Anonymous

           Usually, just when you thought people couldn’t get any dumber someone proves you wrong

      • Eivind Kjorstad

         Actually, I think it’s the circulation to the -higher- regions that’s restricted, maybe they put the belt around their neck or something ?

        It’s everyone -elses- lower regions they want to meddle with.

      • cipher

         Actually, I think it’s cutting off circulation to the brain.

    • Annie

      On behalf of the South, we proudly accept that Krystal Meyers is one of our own.  Her editorial was thoughtful and well written, and took a great deal of bravery to write and submit.  I’m glad she is a southerner… we need more like her.

      My husband and I were talking about living in the South just last night (we are both northern transplants, but have been here for over 20 years).  He made an excellent point, and one that most northerners don’t witness.  There is a great deal of intolerance here, that is true.  Your choice of religion or the color of your skin may have a direct impact on how people treat you during your day to day life.  I get sideways glances just because I “talk funny” (Chicago accents are hard to break). But, if your house burns down, your child falls ill or your spouse dies, people come to help.  Those racial and religious barriers seem to dissolve during times of crisis.  People put their differences aside and help their neighbors.  It’s amazing, really.

      You should come down and visit some time.  You might be pleasantly surprised at how warm and welcoming the South can be.  I am not trapped here, waiting to get out… I love it and plan to stay.  Plus, at 11 pm, it’s 72 degrees F outside.  No shoveling for me. .. but I do need to skim the pool. ;-)

      • FSq

        Annie,

        I have visited the south and spent time down yonder way, in Georgia, Florida, The Carolinas, Tennessee and Kentucky. There are some pretty parts of the south – The Smokey Mountains National Park is spectacular, but I was horrified at the intolerance, overt bigotry and down-right hostility to me (I am a Californian – originally Alaskan). I was driving an SUV with California license plates and I was aghast at what people would say and do because of it – had one old stereotype walk up, fat-assed from eating three meals a day of deep-fried food, and say “Boy, why you live in that faggot-lovin’ state?” It was at that point I realized the south SUCKKKKKKKKKSSSSSSSSS.

        I understand that neighbors may help in times of emergency, but that gains no truck to me when they routinely try to shove dogma and bigotry down other’s throats the rest of the time.

        On a personal note – not regarding the south – the small Alaska town I grew up in basically ran me out of town on a rail for my atheism. Long story short – there was a cross that would go up on PUBLIC LAND each holiday season that was lit up. I filed a complaint, and got the Alaska ACLU involved. People I have known my entire lifetime, people who I would shovel walks for/run errands for/drink with all turned on me if a vicious way. Those are the true colors, and I wager the true colors of the bigots in the south.

        • Nude0007

          Sorry for that REDNECK you talked to, but he is a very minor minority. If you had politely stood up to him and defended your state, he’d have backed off. A lot of these guys like to blow, that’s how they get their kicks, but they are full of bluster and not much else.  
          The south has a LOT of positive things about it, and if we can ever shake this religious bs, we will be the shining star of our nation. There are a lot of open minded people down here, christian or not, and thousands of people from all over the world have settled here. Routinely people who move here from the north refuse to leave because we treat others with respect and kindness. Of course, if you show up and are rude or have a chip on your shoulder, you’ll get what you sow. 

          • FSq

            When you say minor minority, that may be the case, but based on my experience, it certainly did not seem to be anything but bigoted – overtly. The fat-ass was just one of the more offensive interactions I received.

          • Joanne

            I’ve heard that the South is full of people who are much more kind than those cold, disrespectful Northerners. If that is the case, why are there so many mean, bigoted in the South and so many kind, open people in the North?

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          I spent a year in GA.  Finally took the advice of a bumper sticker: “Welcome to Georgia!  Now Leave!”

      • Forrest Cahoon

         Did you move down there as adults? I think it makes a difference.  I grew up in the South since my parents moved down there when I was a kid.  There are many fine people down there, but after moving back to MN I can’t imagine actually living down there …. especially with children of my own now. They cannot be subjected to that culture.

        • Annie

          Yes.  We both moved down here independently and met in college.  We live in a university town, and so we enjoy a much more diverse atmosphere than other cities similar in size.  If I drive for 15 minutes in any direction, I hit the country.  One county over is appealing a decision to remove the ten commandments from their courthouse lawn.  But the university bubble makes this a lovely place to live… and raise children.  We have a 30 year old active humanist group, many secular activities and events, and plenty of opportunities to volunteer outside of the umbrella of a church. 

          • cipher

            We live in a university town, and so we enjoy a much more diverse atmosphere than other cities similar in size…  But the university bubble makes this a lovely place to live… and raise children.  We have a 30 year old active humanist group, many secular activities and events, and plenty of opportunities to volunteer outside of the umbrella of a church.

            Well, there you go. In a very real sense, you aren’t living in the South.

            • Annie

              That’s a convenient way of looking at things:  if something doesn’t fit your stereotype, dismiss it as an outlier.  I do, however, get the point you are trying to make. 

              There is no reason why university towns can’t act as models instead of merely being exceptions in the southern states.   The common suggestion that atheists should just abandon the South, waving a white flag as they head up north, is not only ridiculous, but also unrealistic. 

    • Mimi

      Christian hegemony is not exclusively a southern issue. I get enough stereotyping  from the Christians down here, I naively didn’t expect to see it in the comments on this site. 

      • FSq

        Mimi, facts are facts. The incidence of these things happens more often in the southern states. You cannot hide from the facts.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arthur-Bryne/100002441143047 Arthur Bryne

        Exclusively? No. However, it is disproportionate to the South’s fraction of the US population. (It may be proportionate to the South’s fraction of Christian adherents of Biblical Inerrancy.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/cburschka Christoph Burschka

    Indeed, more awesome Evil Little Things. Give them what for! :D

    (By the way: No relation to PZ, I presume?)

    • Parv000

      Aren’t there T-shirts featuring “Evil Little Things” yet?

      • http://www.facebook.com/cburschka Christoph Burschka

        There are; mine’s still in the mail…

  • Anonymous

    They apparently never heard of the Streisand effect. If they had just published it, only the school would have known. But now tens of thousands of people have heard about it and they will get a lot more attention

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/NISTSJ7BP5PPFJVBRAH54NP76A BlankSlate

      Then (using the words of religion) it was a blessing after all that she wasn’t allowed to publish her paper. Things just might turn out for the best.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gregm766 Gregory Marshall

       I was going to say something along these lines. This young woman is now going to the message out to more people because of the school’s intolerance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brothergilburt Peary Kaufman

    “We do have the right to control the content of the school paper if
    we feel it is in the best interest of the students”

    Sounds like they’re more concerned about their own interests…

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

      Their spiritual interests are in everyone’s best interest… ;)

  • John Michael Strubhart

    If this is representative of what evil little things are, we need more of them in the USA.  Lots more!

  • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com/ TCC

    Sadly, from my understanding, the school has every right to censor speech from student publications (something that is generally not true for post-secondary news outlets, although I think there is some dispute over that, IIRC from my days on the editorial staff of my college publication).

    Also, I’m not sure how true the statement “Teachers are prohibited from making their religious preferences known” is (the next part, “the Constitution requires them to be neutral when acting in their capacity as a public school teacher,” most certainly is, but the two are not identical). It’s not good practice for teachers to go around sharing their religious views, although they can respond to questions about it as long as they don’t advocate students adopt those views, but I’m not a T-shirt with a cross is a clear-cut violation. (This article seems to agree somewhat, noting that some states have statutes forbidding even this.)

    If there’s clear precedent on this that contradicts what I’ve just said, though, I would love to know it, as I teach in a very small, very rural, very religious school district, and it seems clear that some of my colleagues may not fully understand the restrictions on teachers in regard to Establishment Clause issues, so I try to be as much of an expert as possible on the subject.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, what they did wasn’t illegal. It just wasn’t a good idea. Even from their perspective it was a dumb move as they only gave it more attention

      • T-Rex

        Of course it was dumb thing to do. Remember, the church frowns on independant, free thought.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

      The school newspaper has power to sensor. I would suggest that all papers have that power, just as other news outlets sensor. The left (CNN, MSNBC, NBC) does it as well as the right conservative outlets (FOX). If the situation was reversed and it was a Christian or other religion being trodden against, I don’t see their response getting posted either if it was similar in nature. I could see how it would be disruptive and create a fire storm. Just because you are in her corner and say “right on” does not mean that it is appropriate. 

      Even myself being a Christian, I think her message has a lot of validity to it. The message is okay, the audience is okay, but the medium of delivery is not appropriate. 

      With that said, I’m also a teacher. There is no way that the constitution mandates that every teacher be an unbiased robot. For one, licensure is done at the state level. Secondly, I never signed a waiver that said I must not tell anyone that I am a Christian. That isn’t right at all. Now, if I’m waving a banner around the school, preaching to students, or wearing religious t-shirts, that just seems extremely unprofessional. Maybe the school should have a dress code for their teachers. Mine does. No t-shirts, no jeans, no flip-flops, etc. 

      I’ve NEVER brought up me attending a church or alluded to such a thing. I might have a book out on my desk that I read over lunch, but even then I stick it in my desk drawer usually. Occasionally I get busy and forget. Some times that’s when someone will ask me about it, or they might just make a simple comment about it and I nod or say “yes” and try to stay out of it. If they sincerely want to know what I believe, then I would tell them, but a) not during instructional time and b) not in a I’m right and you’re wrong sort of way. That’s not my job. If I was a youth minister THEN that would be my job.

      This school that she attends sounds 180˚ from my school. We have no visitors and no food outside of the cafeteria. These things simply aren’t allowed by the administration and for good reason. 

      Graduation….blah! I’ve attended/ taught at 4 different high schools in my education/teaching career. None of them have had this problem. Prayer simply didn’t take place. Again, nice message, nice audience, wrong medium and venue to do it in. Every school that I have been a part of has always had a baccalaureate program that takes place. This is usually sponsored by a local church or a high school Christian “club”. For those who do not know what this is, it addresses the religious side of the graduation experience. Reflection, thanksgiving, and hope for the future and how these ideas are seen through faith are common themes. 

      It takes the spiritual aspect out of the graduation service, but it does not make an individual take spirituality out of the experience if they gravitate towards belief in a God. It’s voluntary and I’ve never heard of any kind of pressuring of someone to go to it. EVERY school who struggles with these issues should  suggest this as an easy alternative. It’s done at a different date and time, by different people, is mandatory and sometimes happens at a secondary location. I’ve always thought of it as being a nice compromise. 

      Thoughts?

      • The Captain

        I think your pretty much spot on (with one exception…CNN is NOT liberal, they suck up to the right just as much the left). 

        But joking aside what you described is pretty much how it should be done. Thats the way it was at my high school and we had no religious issues at all. the young life christian kids where still friends with the Muslim kids lunch and on sports teams for example, because religion just wasn’t brought up. Everyone just got along because of that. 

        And yea, while the T-shirt is a sticky subject, I keep thinking “why are you wearing a T-shirt anyway?, Put on a damn button shirt for frakes sake”. The only time you saw a teacher in a T-shirt at my old school was when you showed up for practice.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

          CNN very well could be more middle of the road than I give them credit for. The last time I watched (almost cable free for a year now) it did seem like they had several anchors that leaned both ways.

          Couldn’t stand Wolf Blitzer, but I actually did like Cooper’s stuff. I feel like he might have become a bit too big of a name though anymore. Almost to the point that he detracts just a bit from the story.

          But yeah, why are teachers wearing t-shirts again?

        • http://rrlane.blogspot.com rrlane

          As for the T-Shirt being non-professional, many schools are now doing “jean day” fund raisers where teachers can dress more casually for a small donation to a charity or student organization.  In fact, today is a jean day at my school.

        • https://www.facebook.com/GentleGiantDK GentleGiant

          T-shirts and jeans are controversial clothing for a teacher? Wow, that’s even more uptight than I thought.
          Of course, wearing your Black Sabbath or Jesusfreak T-shirt might not be appropriate, but regular T-shirts don’t have to be sloppy or otherwise inappropriate. How about polo shirts? Those are basically T-shirts with a collar.
          And jeans? Again, I can understand no ratty, thready or very baggy jeans, but regular jeans, maybe even kept in darker colours?
          I guess we’re just more “free-spirited” here in liberal (compared to the US) Denmark. ;-)

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/O6I2J4NCTTOHLHVWOOZNFOKB2Y John Spraggs

        The way I read your last paragraph, the baccalaureate program is voluntary and mandatory. That doesn’t sound right.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

          Whoops! Is NOT mandatory. Good catch!

      • BrentSTL

         It might make more sense if you could spell “censor” correctly.

        Just a heads-up…

      • Xeon2000

        Yeah, that’s similar to how my high school was and that’s how I think it works best. School is for teaching and religion is personal. Teachers don’t proselytize. Non-Christian students aren’t made to feel excluded. If a student of any religion wants to augment their school experience with their religious ideals in any way, they can join an optional, separate group/club/event. I think that’s the best path to a pluralistic school.

    • Demonhype

       They have the right to censor speech.  They do not, however, as a public school, have the right to censor the speech just because they don’t like it.  There has to be a demonstrable reason other than “this contradicts the majority opinion on religion”.  I would be very interested, given some of the examples in the article, to see if Christian views are ever published in the school paper.  If they are, then they do not have the right to censor other points of view.  It’s all or nothing, like with the clubs–you either allow an atheist club to form or you can’t have any religion-related clubs at school, you either publish the atheist article or you can’t publish any religious articles at all.

      • http://rrlane.blogspot.com rrlane

        I think that’s why they used the specific phrasing ”
        potential for disruption in the school.”  That’s the reasoning behind the legal ruling that schools can censor sponsored publications.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

        I agree with you. If a theistic opinion was published, then of course the non-theist one should be as well. In my experience, both as a student AND teacher, I’ve never seen pieces containing religion in them as the subject. The closest thing that I saw was an interview with each student that simply asked how do you celebrate the holidays or to some similar effect. Students responded with what their family traditions were during Christmas,etc but one response did have the non-believer quoted as saying that they did not celebrate as they were non-religious. No censorship, just fact. No firestorm or opinion, but again, no censorship either. 

        Can’t say this for all high schools, but thus was the case in the 4 schools that I have had experience in.

  • BrentSTL

    And what’s even worse – the comments (what else) on the Knoxville News-Sentinel’s story. Full of the usual “Christian” love and what not.

    Please…save me from the “good” people. *eyeroll*

  • Gumbright

    You want to know where the women are in the atheist movement?  Apparently they are in high school.  And they rock.

    • Silver_fox-trot

       Agreed.Right now I’m very pessimistic about the states. It’s not that much better here in Canada, but at least our Prime Minister is smart enough to keep his religious views to himself, most of the time.

      Then I hear stories like Damon Fowler, Jessica Ahlquist and now Krystal Myers and I think, in a few years from now, once those three young heroes have graduated from University, that the states might just one day regain their reputation as a place of liberty and justice.The world needs more people like them!

    • Anonymous

      Yes, 40% of Atheists are women, much more than a lot of people give us credit for.

    • Joanne

      First thing you do when you see an article involving an atheist who happens to be female: point out that she’s female. I hope someday atheists will see females atheists for what they are: just atheist people. At least you’re not as bad as those who immediately refer to how someone looks, I’ll give you that much.

    • Diane

      So Mrs. Myers thinks it’s inappropriate for teachers or students to wear t-shirts or talk about their faith in a public setting; however, she feels it’s her rights as an atheist that arebeing violated and she should be able to do these things in a public setting?? I respect her right to not believe, but what makes her beliefs or opinions any more important than mine? She should be able to freely express her choice of atheism, I completely agree with her on that point. But that doesn’t mean that anyone who does believe in a GOD should have to hide it or be afraid to express it for fear of offending someone who doesn’t. That’s what our country is supposed to be about, freedom. This article makes it very clear that she wants to atheists to be able to share their views, educate other people about atheism, and have special privelages and protections as an atheist, but wants all those things taken away from believers because she doesn’t agree with them. Awful hypocritcal, Mrs. Myers, I respect your choice to be an atheist and wish you all the best you sound like a bright young woman. However, how about extending the same cu=ourtesy to people who don’t share your beliefs. You said you try hard to be the best person you can be, good people don’t try to take other people’s rights away just because it’s not agreeable with them.

      • Skeptikitten

         Untrue.  Teachers do NOT have the right to advertise their religion in a public school.  A teacher in a public school is a government employee, and as such may not endorse a religion.  That is well known to any teacher who chooses to take employment in a public school- every teacher is taught this in college.  Myers isn’t looking for special rights for atheists- she is clearly just looking for those in a position of government to stop abusing that position by endorsing a religion.  Public schools are secular by Constitutional law, and any employee thereof must also be while in their capacity.  She’s not trying to say students should not be able to express their personal opinions- she is correctly arguing against the illegal school sponsorship of religion.
        Clearly you have never worked in or with the public school system; most people have not, and have no clue what behavior is and is not allowed by public employees.
        If a teacher wishes to express their religious beliefs in their capacity AS teacher, he or she should take a position in a RELIGIOUS school.

      • Loudguitr

        Atheism is NOT a belief. Calling Atheism a belief is like calling abstinence a sex position.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_53TOS4V26HBHM6X3HPULA2HPAQ Randy

    In suppressing her article, they have validated her premise.

  • cbeths

    I live in Knoxville, right next door to Lenior City and I never tell anyone I’m an atheist, it’s just a hassle I don’t need.  At work I would never tell my boss or coworkers because I just don’t believe it wouldn’t be held against me.  It’s tricky down here.  I try not to think about it. It’s frustrating.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/NISTSJ7BP5PPFJVBRAH54NP76A BlankSlate

    I read somewhere that daily pledge recitation will now be mandatory for elementary school students, and only once a week for high schoolers. This was a direct response from right winged elected officials to the complaint made by a Massachusetts parents about their three children hearing the words “under god” during the pledge. I’m not sure if this is actually true but if it is, then it seems the war has begun.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      That was settled way back in 1943 when the Jehovah’s Witnesses sued over being required to salute the flag and say the pledge (before it had “Under God” of course).  A board may try to pull that, but it wouldn’t make it very far.

    • Sware
      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Wow.

        However, under this bill, Sen Osmond says students can still opt out of saying the Pledge of Allegiance with parental consent.

        In a recent long online argument over this, I resorted to describing a 10 point scale, 1 = required to say the pledge and 10 = not allowed to say the pledge.  What we in general have now where kids don’t have to, but are lead, is IMO a lot  closer to 1 than to 10.  Osmond is trying to take it closer still.

        • Xeon2000

          Screw that. You shouldn’t need parental consent to take a personal pledge. That’s your own decision.

  • Jordan walsh

    Im in college and a few years ago i took a govenment class and all the professor talked about was teaching sunday school. Our final paper had to be a problem in our court system. So i wrote about putting ur hand on a bible and the ten comandments in the court room and how if your not christian you are not treated the same. he gave me a F and said it wasnt a problem in our court system. I was like wow but it’s a problem in our colleges!!!

    • Demonhype

       What kind of college was this?  That’s the sort of thing I would challenge.  I had a teacher in college who made a few half-hearted attempts to bait me (it was a Christian History class) but that kind of petered out pretty quick–as I would only contradict him in a paper, where there would be a clear record of what went down, and I had that unapologetic attitude that made it clear I wouldn’t stand for crap.   Teacher was a little flaky though, so that might have had something to do with it.

      I’d be damned if I’d take an F on a paper because of the teacher’s personal prejudices, especially in a what sounds like a gen ed class not related to religion in which the teacher is essentially cheating me  by talking about Sunday School rather than teaching.  You give me an F, you’d better have a good reason you can lay out and not just “I don’t consider the marginalization of non-Christians and atheists to be a problem at all”.

    • Nude0007

      you should’a took that to the dean. He is wrong and should be took to task over that. 

    • Starfish

      Except you don’t actually have to swear on the Bible in court. I covered courts as a reporter for years and not once was anyone required to place their hand on the Bible to swear an oath. They were all required to promise to tell the truth to the best of their abilities, but no one was required to swear on anything. So, in that case, your professor was right. It’s not a court issue.

      Posting the 10 Commandments, however, is another issue.  That does happen and there’s plenty of recent evidence to support that claim. Depending on how you wrote the paper (and I was a college professor for a couple of years, so it really does depend on how you wrote the paper and what you offerred as support), you shouldn’t have been failed because you didn’t address the assignment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174806422 Stacy Rodgers Orr

    (My wife needs to learn to logout of Facebook on my laptop)

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

    Great article.  I tweeted it and I imagine others will be doing the same.  The school’s going to be wishing it had just printed the article as it’s going to be gaining far more notoriety now than it would have otherwise. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/christopher.r.orr Christopher Orr

    While I don’t condone the actions of the school, they are very likely
    within their authority to act this way. Based on Hazelwood Sch. Dist. v.
    Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260, the Supreme Court held that a school is able
    to censor student speech that a reasonable person  would think is done
    with the imprimatur of the school. This case specifically dealt with a
    school withholding articles from a school paper (about teen pregnancy
    and divorce). The SCOTUS precedent is almost all they need to win.

    Kuhlmeier allows for an exemption to the “material disruption” standard
    using required for a school to prohibit student speech or expression
    within the school. This standard was laid out in Tinker v. Des Moines
    Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503.

    Therefore, the school will likely be able to defeat an injunction
    regarding the article. However, this will just bring to light the other
    unconstitutional acts occurring in the school. Those will be actionable, and the school will likely not have a leg to stand on there.

    (Why, yes… I am a law student. Why do you ask?)

    • Demonhype

      Problem is these types just keep invoking “preventing a disruption” whenever someone who is not a Christian wants a chance to say something.  They use it as a way to silence opposition.  There isn’t really anything in her article that could be construed as disruptive except that she isn’t a part of the religious majority.

    • Xeon2000

      Obviously the issue at hand is not about defeating the school’s decision to publish the paper in the school news. Who cares? As has been pointed out… all hail the Internet. I think the more relevant issue now is that the cat is out of the bag on the laundry list of constitutional violations at the school, and the ACLU may need to get in involved next. Perhaps Myers could act as a plaintiff.

  • Anonymous

    I live not too far from Lenoir City. About 20 miles. If you  arent a bible lovin, jeezuz beleeving xtain, then you are definitely in the minority. I dont have a problem discussing it with people in my area. I have my own business and so far no one has given me any grief about it. I commend this girl for her article and hope no harm comes to her for standing up for herself. Afterall, those xtians can be quite forceful and sometimes violent when showing all that “love”.

  • Matt

    First, if you are a moral person. Where did your morals originally thrive from? If not from a superior being, we would live in a state of lawlessness. Lawlessness that will okay ill-gotten behavior. For instance primitive human tribes prior to being evangelized to. Second, Congress has not passed any law to support any one religion, but allow establishments to worship if they wish to. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court was wrong when they made their decision in your cited cases. With a lack of understanding and making the First Amendment open to their own interpretation.

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      Ethics and morals are derived from social pressure. Doing X is deemed beneficial to society, and therefore society encourages it, while discouraging Y because Y is deemed harmful by society.

      No God Required. Srsly.

    • Anonymous

      Define ill gotten behavior. Does that include slaughtering everyone, including women and children?

    • Gary Hill

      Matt, you need to think this through. What you appear to be telling us is that you are too stupid to work out that killing another human being, for instance, is morally wrong and you’d be doing it if only you hadn’t been taught some biblical stories.

      So why, again for example, don’t you believe that women raped inside a city should be stoned to death as Deuteronomy 22:23-24 unambiguously commands (assuming you don’t)?  Superceding biblical commands necessitates a morality that cannot have come from the bible, doesn’t it?

      Think about it for a second. If all humans acted immorally before the bible was written, how did the species survive? And if all morality comes from a superior being, how then did Buddhist morality come about?

      • Anonymous

        Matt, you need to think this through. What you appear to be telling us is that you are too stupid to work out that killing another human being, for instance, is morally wrong and you’d be doing it if only you hadn’t been taught some biblical stories.

        This.

    • Silver_fox-trot

       How about this? We do it because its common sense. I don’t go out and kill my neighbors because I don’t want to live in a world where my neighbors can come in and kill me. I try and help the elderly (through the financial assistance known as a pension or otherwise) because when I’m old, I might need help as well.

      It’s called the Social Contract.

      I actually hope that you continue to believe in your sky daddy, because it that’s the only thing keeping you from going out and killing/raping/pillaging a la Old Testament…yeah…

    • Silver_fox-trot

       Also, if I were you, I’d take a basic anthropology class. Or even a history class. You’ll notice that none of the ‘primitive human tribes’ slaughtered each other before Europeans arrived and in fact, many problems started happening after Missionaries arrived to ‘save them’.

      One thing that might interest you, is that the so-called ‘primitive tribes’ are also the most egalitarian. Hence why *MANY* women, when hey arrived at the American colonies, left the masochism of the European in favor of a place where they were viewed as actual equals. Of course, the men/missionaries would have none of that, so they claimed that the woman had been kidnapped and raped by the ‘savage injuns’.

      Those ‘Primitive human tribes’ also tend to have better overall health. You’ll never find a group of hunter/gatherers, for example, with problems like diabetes, obesity and cholesterol. At least, not until their European conquerors arrive and force them to settle down.

      If I were you, Matt, I’d sit down and read another book besides the bible. Or even use wikipedia or *gasp* Google!

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Unfortunately you were wrong when you made your statement.  With a lack of understanding and making human behavior open to your own interpretation.

    • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com/ TCC

      “Second, Congress has not passed any law to support any one religion, but allow establishments to worship if they wish to. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court was wrong when they made their decision in your cited cases. With a lack of understanding and making the First Amendment open to their own interpretation.”

      1. You need to do a little studying of the Fourteenth Amendment, which applies the Establishment Clause (indeed, all of the Bill of Rights) more broadly than originally written. Bringing up the “Congress shall pass no law…” phrasing is irrelevant if you don’t understand how the Constitution has changed since then.
      2. What do you mean by “allow establishments to worship if they wish to”? People (and, to an extent, organizations) have free exercise rights, but that is limited whenever a person is acting in a role as a government agent and creates the appearance of governmental endorsement.
      3. The wording of the Establishment is very clear: it is not the prohibition of establishing a religion but of establishing religion (no indefinite article). That is significant, as it makes the clear meaning much broader than simply the endorsement of one religion or denomination.

      I won’t bother touching on your “primitive human tribes” ethnocentric bullshit, as others have already done an excellent job on that topic.

    • Anonymous

      Where did your morals originally thrive from? If not from a superior being, we would live in a state of lawlessness.

      Are people still peddling this vacuous nonsense?

      Morality/ethics don’t require the existence of some superior being to explain their existence.  One doesn’t need to be a believer to be able to adhere to the ‘social contract’ or to provide substantive arguments as to why murder is ‘wrong’.

    • Xeon2000

      It’s amusing to imagine morals like some kind of rabbit “poofed” into existence by a magician. It’s strange to think of pre-Christian tribal cultures like you do, as though though they were instinctual amoral animals–lions on the savannah hunting gazelle. Pay no attention to their elaborate spiritual beliefs, culture, values, family traditions, etc that existed before Christian settlers moved in and destroyed them.

      Are you 5 years old?

    • Lisab

      Go read Leviticus and see if you still feel the same about morality as established by the Bible..

    • FSq

      Oh Jesus Christ, and no, I am not bringing up that dude because he is the founder – patent pending – of human morality.

      Come on dumbass, you really need a sky fairy to know what is right and wrong?

      Jesus ass-plunging Christ.

  • Atheistpowerlifter

    I was moved by her piece. When I attended elementary school/ junior high (in the 70′s, early 80′s) we were forced to recite the Lords prayer daily before class. I sincerely doubt – in my small maritime community – that there were any Hindus or Muslims in my class, let alone atheists, but doubt they would have cared.

    My well meaning parents sent me to “advanced sunday school bible study” (our denomination was Salvation Army Church) when I was 11 in the hope that religion would “take”. In my third class the “teacher” was telling us about our 6000 year old planet. It just so happened that week in geography class – for some reason – we had been discussing the dinosaurs and how they had lived millions and millions of years ago. Naturally I raised my hand, innocently asking about the apparent discrepancy in the timelines…her response was to reprimand me and sit me in the corner, admonishing me to “not ask silly questions”.
    Well my path to atheism then started, so I should thank her.

    Looking back, I wish I had the intelligence and courage of young Ms. Myers – I would have spoken out more.

  • Bystander

    i wonder what happened to “freedom of the press”

    • Anonymous

       She isn’t a journalist and there are plenty of things that can be forbidden for students. They aren’t without rights, but this has already been decided by the Supreme Court

    • http://rrlane.blogspot.com rrlane

      It was ruled long ago that student newspapers in public schools don’t fall under the same heading as other forms of the press.  Schools have long had the right to censor them.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish Cuttlefish

    Update:  It appears she’s not pursuing the decision.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2012/02/23/lenoir-city-update/

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XFNB6EKDF7NS2DYBMEN2SCNSXY Tommy

    Good editorial she wrote.  While I’m not, in any way shape or form, a religious person I do have a few things that she brought up that I don’t think are wrong.  First is the wearing of the t-shirt.  Is that any different than someone who is Italian wearing a shirt that says ‘Italy’ on it?  It’s who the teacher is.  If someone is married they wear a wedding ring.  It’s who they are.  The other thing I don’t have a problem with is the quotes on the blackboard.  No one is saying the bible was never written.  It’s the most famous book in the world. Is it any different to quote from Darwin or Lincoln?  It’s historical.  I don’t believe the Holocaust should have ever happened (I’m not saying it DIDN’T happened, I’m saying it SHOULDN’T have happened), but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t learn about it.

    Smart kid though and nice job stupid ass school officials for putting this kid on a national stage.

    • http://twitter.com/janthewordnerd Jan Rodak

       As agents of the government, teachers represent the school staff and may not endorse any religion over another.

      • Homosapien

         Yep, completely agree. If teachers want to write bible verses on the chalk board as a “quote of the day” maybe they should be required to do a bit of research into other religions, cultures, and philosophies, and write quotes from these as well…

  • Iochannon

     

    As a Teacher I want to disagree with several points in the
    article and the discussion.  Ms. Myers mentions several instances and
    means by which school officials and teachers make their religious views known
    and otherwise express their beliefs.  She also mentions several notable
    cases that express the court’s view on appropriate behavior of schools, school
    officials, and school systems regarding the very real danger of official
    sponsorship of religion in a publicly funded institution.  However, her examples
    do not necessarily support her argument that her rights as an Atheist are being
    abridged.  

    Teachers and School officials have rights to self-expression the same as the Students,
    their Parents, and all other American Citizens under the Constitution.  There
    is a very fine and difficult line between a Teacher exercising their own First
    Amendment Rights and an act of using the authority of the school to force his
    or her views on the Students.  A Teacher may, for example, wear a t-shirt
    with a religious symbol or offer quotes from the Bible, or the Torah, or the
    Koran, etc.  The Teacher may pray openly, or offer the opportunity for
    others to pray.  They may offer their Students an opportunity to
    participate in a religious-themed group or event. 

    They may not make the Student’s education dependent or conditional upon
    these.  A Teacher may not require Students to read religious materials
    except where specifically relevant to the study at hand, such as in a class on
    ‘Ethics,’ ‘Philosophy,’ ‘Theology,’ etc.  Or, when that material is
    directly related to a non-religious element of the curriculum.  During a
    reading of ‘The Scarlet Letter’ in an English class, it may be pertinent to
    provide sections of Puritan religious writings in order to clarify the context
    of the world described in the novel.  It may also be relevant to provide
    selections from various political writings from the time, in the same
    spirit.  A Teacher who requires students to participate in a religious
    extracurricular activity for credit, where that activity has nothing to do with
    the class at hand, is a violation of Students’ rights and the Separation of
    Church and State.  A Teacher or School Official may not require Students
    to pray during class or an event.  They may not abridge or deny the ‘Free
    and Appropriate Public Education’ of any student.

    In this same way, Students may not interfere with each other in the pursuit of
    their education.  Each Student is entitled by law to an education, not to
    the choice of whether to receive an education or not.  The Students have a
    right to an education, and anything that prevents that education is not
    acceptable.  A Teacher who fails to educate his or her Students due to too
    much self expression is just as much out of line as a Student who disrupts
    class in an effort to express him or herself.  The Article on Atheism may
    be very well intentioned, and Ms. Myers may only wish to express her honest
    opinion.  However, it is for the School to determine whether that
    expression might reasonably create disruption in the classrooms; however much
    anyone may want the school to engage in the conversation that Ms. Myers
    encourages.  Simply put, it isn’t about her view, it’s about whether or
    not this speech disrupts the education process.  It is not an insult to
    Ms. Myers, nor a reflection on her character, her intelligence, or her value to
    the school.

     

    Ms. Myers is undoubtedly right that some Teachers, Officials,
    and other Students have expressed their religious views at times where it may
    not be strictly necessary.  She may even
    be right that she has not been treated to the same opportunity of
    self-expression.  However, she asserts in
    the article that several actions, taken by School Officials and Teachers, are
    blatantly discriminatory to her and in violation of the Constitution, when
    there is plenty of room to argue as to either point and when those same
    Officials have the right to self-expression, the same as she does.  In the meantime, whether or not there are
    actual, actionable violations of National and State Law, the education process
    must continue and the facts of these cases will be decided by relevant bodies
    with legal authority to do so.  This will
    not be decided by one article in a School Newspaper.

    • http://twitter.com/janthewordnerd Jan Rodak

       If you were a real teacher you wouldn’t inappropriately capitalize nouns such as “student” or “teacher.”

      You also would not copy and paste.

    • Anonymous

      Teachers and School officials have rights to self-expression the same as the Students, their Parents, and all other American Citizens under the Constitution.  There is a very fine and difficult line between a Teacher exercising their own First Amendment Rights and an act of using the authority of the school to force his or her views on the Students.  A Teacher may, for example, wear a t-shirt with a religious symbol or offer quotes from the Bible, or the Torah, or the Koran, etc.  The Teacher may pray openly, or offer the opportunity for others to pray.  They may offer their Students an opportunity to participate in a religious-themed group or event.

      Not exactly.  The courts have ruled time and time again that teachers, in their official capacity, are not afforded the same latitude of free speech and self-expression due to the appearance, in the eyes of impressionable children, of official support by the school, and by extension the government, of any viewpoints expressed by said teacher.  On their off-time they’re allowed to do whatever anyone else can do, but while they are working, they must remain neutral on matters of religion.

      So while you’re right that they may bring up points of religious dogma in the context of valid lessons…because this is not an endorsement…wearing clothing that endorses a particular religious view becomes an impermissible violation.

      The issue here is the active endorsement of religion by school officials in their official capacity which is a blatant violation of constitutional law. Endorsement of a sectarian viewpoint by a government entity (in this case the teachers, and by extension the school administration based on their unwillingness to do anything about it, not to mention explicit violations in the form of endorsing prayer at official school events, plus the school board) in their official capacity is necessarily discriminatory against anyone who doesn’t hold that same viewpoint. As a student, if she were to push for a law suit she would be granted standing, and she would win.

      Ms. Myers assertions and citations of case law are valid.

      • Iochannon

        You are correct that teachers are not afforded the same latitude of free speech, and neither are students, but not for the reason you listed.  As I mentioned in the rest of my comment, the point of being in the school is for the students to receive an education.  Any behavior that gets in the way of that goal is an impermissible violation.  The courts have ruled that neither students or teachers lose their constitutional rights in school.  As I often teach to my students: your rights end where another person’s begin.  My right to talk about my religion ends where it detracts from my student’s right to a free and appropriate public education.  There is more to many of Ms. Myers observations than you are giving credit for.  I do agree, however… that if the conduct of the school officials is as over the top as she describes, she might win a suit in court.

        • Anonymous

          You are correct that teachers are not afforded the same latitude of free
          speech, and neither are students, but not for the reason you listed…The courts have ruled that neither students or teachers lose their
          constitutional rights in school.  As I often teach to my students: your
          rights end where another person’s begin.  My right to talk about my
          religion ends where it detracts from my student’s right to a free and
          appropriate public education.

          I’d say you need to read the Lee v Weisman decision again. Though the case is explicitly about prayer at a graduation ceremony the text inside has broader implications.

          “[T]here are heightened concerns with protecting freedom of conscience
          from subtle coercive pressure in the elementary and secondary public
          schools…The mixing of government and religion can be a threat to free government, even if no one is forced to participate. When the government [school] puts its imprimatur on a particular religion, it
          conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the
          favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it
          asserts that God prefers some. Only “[a]nguish, hardship and bitter
          strife” result “when zealous religious groups struggl[e] with one
          another to obtain the Government’s stamp of approval.””

          A teacher espousing a religious viewpoint in a classroom, be it by praying or wearing an article of clothing that endorses their religious beliefs, necessarily violates the rights of the children they’re  teaching. The school, by doing nothing, gives the impression “of official support by the school, and by extension the government,”

    • FSq

      Let me guess, you are a flag waving, card carrying member of the teacher’s union – one of the most worthless and detrimental unions in the nation. This is the union whose president once declared “I’ll care about the students the day they can vote.”

      Newsflash sweetheart – your job is to teach the children – meaning you are there for THEM, not the other way around.

      • Noel

        Ok, first off this comment is way off topic. And somewhat inconsistent with itself, why is someone with clouded views on what is and is not a violation of the establishment clause a typical union member? Its a complete non-sequitor, and unions are the archetype of a primarily secular organization.

        But to respond directly to the point, although it is in fashion to denounce the teacher’s unions, you have been bamboozled if you think that the unions are somehow detrimental to students or their learning, or that they are only out for themselves. The main argument that can be made against the unions is twofold 1: that they are preventing the turnover of ‘bad’ teachers, 2: that they are preventing needed education reforms. The first position is certainly valid in some cases, but it is not a universal law derived from economics that higher turnover allows for a higher quality workforce. In the case of teachers, quality tends to improve with their experience, and a high turnover would be a detrimental effect. In addition (and this speaks to the second point) the ONLY factor that has been demonstrated to improve student performance is the presence high-quality teachers. If one were to look overseas and observe what is being done correctly in high performing schools, the kinds of reforms being proposed currently in the US are not in place. Instead, teacher’s unions are the norm, I’m thinking of europe, and sweden in particular.
        Finally, if you really think that the union president ever said that or that the teacher’s union is some evil fatcat destroying our students to get ahead, none of my words will likely reach you, living in your fact-free bubble. 

        • FSq

           American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker said, “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.”
          There ya go sweetheart. They have tried to discredited him from that quote, but he was quoted, verbatim, on that little gem.

          So before you talk about a fact-bubble Mr. Maher, go do a little research.

          • Anonymous

            And if you’d do your research, FSq, you’d find that that quote from Shanker, which first appeared in print in 1985, was not sourced at all by the newspaper that originally published it. Did he say it? Maybe. But without adequate sourcing, how do you know for sure?

            As for teachers’ unions being worthless and detrimental, would you care to elaborate? Or are you comfortable spewing disparaging, condescending remarks without evidence? 

            • FSq

              Take a look at how the Teacher’s Union shut down the female, Asian, superintendent when she dared to try and make teacher’s accountable vis-a-vis MERIT versus tenure.

              How about every time a contract negotiation comes up, the NEA has a “no-no” reaction much like today’s farcical GOP, they will put up road-blocks to ensure teachers can slack ass and do anything but teach. The cart is in front of the horse, teachers now feel the students are there for them, and not the other way around like it should be. 

              Fact suggest that tenure is one of the worst ideas in education. The NEA needs to loosen the death grip on tenure and let air into the USA’s destroyed public education system.

              • FSq

                *that was for the Washington DC superintendant – forgot to type that in the first paragraph.

                • Anonymous

                  I knew who you were referring to; but what does Michelle Rhee being an Asian woman have to do with the union opposing her? 

                  I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the position of teachers’ unions. The teachers’ union, like all unions, advocate for better pay, better working conditions, and better benefits for those that they represent. Like it or not, the union’s job *is* to represent the teachers. The individual teachers, on the other hand, are the one’s who’s job it is to advocate for and, as you say, “be there,” for students.

                  Also, what do you think tenure is? Because it is not a license to “slack ass,” as you so delicately put it.

                  And how many teachers do you know? How many of them are slackers? How many of them don’t actually care about their students? How many of them are in it for the phenomenal pay, short workday, and endless praise from politicians and the public? 

                • FSq

                  My family is comprised of a university professor, and an English teacher.

                  I know the inner workings of the NEA all too well. 

                  The NEA stopped being a worthwhile Union years ago.

                  And tenure has become a carte-blanche way to slack-assing. You know it and I know it, don’t be disingenuous!

                • Anonymous

                  You didn’t answer my question. What do you think tenure is?

                  Did the English teacher in your family become a slack-ass after tenure? What about college professor? 

                  Am I a slack-ass because I have tenure? I know that the vast majority of my colleagues that have earned tenure are not slack-asses. I know them to be genuine professionals that do their utmost to have a positive impact on the lives of our students. I know that they care enough about those students to work nights at home, weekends, and after school to give those students opportunities. I have seen tenured teachers donate their time and money to ensure that students were able to take trips to our nation’s capital. Maybe your experiences are different than mine, considering that I actually am a teacher, but I don’t think that you should make broad negative generalizations about an entire profession without really knowing what you are talking about. Try teaching sometime. Let me know if we are all slack-asses when you do.

                  I’ll end with the now-common slogan, “You can’t put students first if you put teachers last.” 

                • FSq

                  Yes, lovely plaitude that means exactly nothing.

                  I have taught. So I do know what it is all about. And there are far too many lazy tenured teachers out there to allow tenure to remain in place in public schools across America. Of course you are scared at the notion of loosing tenure because it means you would have to perform annually. Not something most people want to do, especially after getting the ride of tenure.

                • Anonymous

                  I’m not afraid of “loosing” anything.” I do my job, and I do it well. You are making way too many assumptions about me and the teaching profession. I’d really prefer not to keepthis discussion going since you can’t evenanswer a simple question like “what doestenure mean to you?” Plus, you seem to prefer insulting me and my profession and demonizing all teachersbecause a few teachersare no good. I’ll say it again. The vast majorityof teacherscareabout their studentsand make a supreme effort to improvethe livesof those students. If you can’t see that, you are either blind or completely unwilling to see.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  Well if you did it for the salary, you sure picked the wrong profession :-)

  • No

    I just feel the need to say that there shouldn’t be a problem with the quote of the day involving a bible passage, just so long as the teacher is also willing to put up similar passages from the Koran,  or other holy texts, and secular texts as well. The bible does have some nice quotes in it, and I don’t think they should not be shown to children just because they are from the bible.

    • Phred

      The day they put up the following Quote of the Day, my objection to quoting bible verses in their classrooms will diminish greatly:

      “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” – Isaac AsimovI feel pretty safe in saying it will never happen.

    • FSq

      “Fear of Flying” by Erica Jong has some sweet quotes in it as well, but I am betting they will never see the chalk on a board in that school for a quote of the day.

  • http://fred5.myopenid.com/ fred5

    Do you really think that a school district that would allow a church to be a  sponsor of  a Middle School writing contest really cares as to what people think when they deny a student publication rights because she is an atheist?

    Tell me what is wrong with this picture.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mgdupille Marc Gregory du Pille

      Ummm, the teacher under the dirty great big cross is standing far too close to the little  uncomfortable looking student with her certificate?

  • Tonydinkel47

    Wasn’t there a religious movie a few years ago that a bunch of christers got up in arms about?  They were demonstrating, banner waving, boycot threatning ad nauseum.  All the discussion simply gave the movie way more press exposure than it deserved.  Trying to silence a differing view seems to have this effect.  Good for her!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Van-Remortel/1347125209 Terry Van Remortel

    What this “public school” is doing is definitely over the top and uncalled for ramming of a particular religion down people’s throats. Save this for parochial schools as this is THEY’RE for and as a student, you’d better believe I’d be complaining too.  When I attended public school 35+ years ago, students attended “religious instructions” AFTER school but no and mean NO prayer of any kind was practiced within our building except for the Pledge of Allegiance where “under god” was used.
    I do not capitalize god as I myself am an atheist.  Keep your religion where it belongs, in your religious insitutions and I’ll keep my unbelieving “self” out of your churches”.

  • Gunstargreen

    It’s nice but “illegal for a teacher to make their religious preferences known” seems a bit wrong.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Here’s a case that illustrates what a massive gray area “What teachers can say about religion” is.  
    http://ncse.com/news/2012/02/corbett-case-ends-with-victory-teachers-007224

    I’d be surprised if anything a teacher or student wears that shows their religions views would be a violation.  And frankly I wouldn’t want teacher to not be able to wear a cross.  Bible verses on the blackboard, I’d really want to see the actual verses, and what other quotes are displayed.

  • PEEP

    Dumb

  • Georgina

    “an attitude of tolerance to all religions”

    See, if you don’t have a religion, they don’t have to tolerate you.
    But we MUST tolerate them and their stupid ideas (women are inferior in intelligence?) ‘cos they got religion!

  • Stumpy

    I’m not sure if its already been mentioned but I’m noticing the contrast betwen Hemant and his views on being a teacher and not bringing his lack of faith to the classroom (mentioned in a previous blog post) and a teacher wearing a t-shirt with a cross on it.

    • http://rrlane.blogspot.com rrlane

      I’m a teacher as well, and It’s very easy not to bring my atheism into the classroom.  I simply don’t discuss it, and I don’t promote it.  It’s a non-issue.  It’s not promoting atheism to point out when others are promoting religion.

      If I told my students that there are no gods, and if I presented atheism as the only viable choice to my students, THAT would be promoting atheism.  

      Being a British literature teacher, I actually end up discussion religion more than anything else as so much of the early works revolve around it.

  • Mairianna

    “Disruption?! She would be making people think! What sort of messed up school wants to prevent that?! ” – All of them, Hemant.  Public schools don’t have the time and faculty to teach kids critical thinking…..they are too busy babysitting.

  • Matt in Knoxville

    Good to see this! I keep telling people there are way more atheists in the Knoxville area that you might realize.  Even so, coming out as an atheist in Lenoir City- a very uptight and conservative suburb even by East TN standards- is not an easy task. Keep up the good work, Ms. Myers.  

    • FSq

      Matt,

      Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t Knoxville and environs lay claim to having one of the highest per capita PhD holders in the nation?

      That is why this is so bizarro to me. This seems to be a pocket of erudition in the otherwise dumb-assed south, and yet this happens here.

      • Matt in Knoxville

        I haven’t seen that statistic, but it could very well be true considering that the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Research Labs are there. These are very big institutions that draw lots highly educated people from all over to the area and that could skew the pHd per capita stats. I also think that any university town in the bible belt  is probably going to be a little more freethinking than its region may indicate.  
         

        Still, the overall climate is a very southern, very christian, and very conservative, and other commenters from the area have rightly pointed out that admitting to atheism could very well cause problems in your career. For what its worth, I went to a middle class public high school in knoxville, and most of my old high school friends are now either atheists, nonreligious, or tolerant/liberal christians. 

        In fact, I believe the Friendly Atheist himself went to Farragut High School in Knoxville, just a few miles from the school in this article, before moving up to Illinois.      

  • Anonymous

    When I was a kid, I prayed in public school–but did it silently.  Jesus himself warned against those so-called holy people who beat their chests in the public square about how much they love God, and this is something the fundies always miss.  I personally don’t like the evangelical diktat that requires people go out and evangelize, mainly because I don’t like their brand of Christianity, if it can be called that, shoved down my throat.  Well-meaning Christians made lampshades and soap out of Jews.  Separation of church and state is a wise and rational decision that avoids “little inquistions” that occurred in this high school. 

    I say: Let’s give the principle of Lenoir high school the auto da fey–make him a griddle-cake example of violating a singlular principle of the United States. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arthur-Bryne/100002441143047 Arthur Bryne

    Alas, a lawsuit can only proceed if there’s a plaintiff who has suffered “actual harm” and been directly affected. From the sound of the school, it may well be that atheists are too few to find another willing to step forward to anchor the complaint.

  • BenZ

    Excellent! Nothing will get students to read an article more than the school banning it. Keep it up!!

  • Jessica Lynn Frame

    They told her the same thing my school told me when I brought the unconstitutionality of a benediction at graduation to their attention.  “We don’t want to cause a distress in the student body… let’s not make a fuss.”  Total bull.  And guess what?  Just like her school isn’t going to stop writing bible verses on their chalkboards, my principal is still planning on assigning one of my fellow graduates to write a prayer to include in our graduation ceremony.  It’s ridiculous.  I had a petition going about it, too, and ten signatures.  Know what he does?  Forbids me from getting more signers.  They’ll never learn, will they?

  • Noname

    Another atheist Myers. How many are there???? (let’s make a list!)

  • Georgerox1

    Her article contains a number of issues she may not be aware of.
     1 Does a teacher wearing a cross have fewer rights that a student who may wear a “There is no God” t-shirt. ..and if so isn’t that a disservice to the teacher? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE thereof”.
    2 Our country was founded with a moral code based on Judeo-Christian values. Our rights are said to be God-given. (endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights) This basis for our law is the difference between a country that allows slavery and one which had established a future path for its abolition.
    3Negative feelings towards atheists MAY be justified, eg Christian ideals provide a foundation, IF FOLLOWED, that guarantee a level of civility for those who come in contact with practitioners. NOTE—IF FOLLOWED. Krystal’s feelings that she wants to be a “good” person are little consolation to someone if her feelings on the matter of wanting to be good change dramatically. A Catholic, for example, has HELL to deal with as a downside of a serious transgression of their faith. Our Judeo-Christian society, without Krystal’s awareness of it, has had a large impact on Krystal’s conceot of what “good” is.
    4 You ask that you be respected. What about your atheism qualifies you for respect. An animal has no belief in a Diety. If being around a prayer causes you angst, why? If I talk to my washing machine would that bother your sensibilities? In your view both activities have the same importance… they make me happy but don’t accomplish anything.
    5 You say you don’t want to don’t want to “convert anyone into athiests”. Why then would you make your beliefs on the subject known to the world? The teacher you complain about made his/her beliefs known to a few students and you implied that the  act was proselytizing. Learn the real facts about our Founders and their beliefs and the requirements that they required within the states that they be represented in their government by Christians and you’ll begin to understand how important they felt Christian beliefs to be in the success of their creation.

    • Homosapien

       “Does a teacher wearing a cross have fewer rights that a student who may wear a “There is no God” t-shirt.”

      Yes. A student does not represent the establishment, or serve as a figure of authority. A good case could be made for a TEACHER who wore a “there is no god” t-shirt, but not a student.

      “This basis for our law is the difference between a country that allows
      slavery and one which had established a future path for its abolition.”

      Nonsense. Many cultures exist/have existed with religious or moral values other than Christianity, who also did not take slaves. You forget that it was Christian morality that was one of the original justifications for the use of slaves; savages have no souls.

      “Our Judeo-Christian society, without Krystal’s awareness of it, has had a large impact on Krystal’s conceot of what “good” is.”

      Nonsense. Some sense of morality along similar lines of the “golden rule” are near universally cross cultural. Christians have no special claim to morality in this regard.

      “If being around a prayer causes you angst, why?”

      Being around prayer doesn’t cause me angst exactly. Institutionalizing it, and having it “preached” by authority figures in charge of education is the issue.

      “Why then would you make your beliefs on the subject known to the world?”

      Because when individuals have a right to speak their views (as opposed to a figure of authority) it can hopefully foster rational debate, and challenge potentially outmoded assumptions about the universe and morality.

  • Barbaraw10

    Horray for Krystal, she has her own mind and was not afraid to speak it. You know I am still afraid of what my family will think. I been an secret aethist for a long time. I know we are nice even nicer people than most.  Enought of that.         There is a movement  going on  by the evangelistic crazies. They are trying to change text books to read differently about global warming. We know the science of it  whether all or part was done by man. The crazies think it is not true.  That Texas govenor denies it and was actually outside praying for rain. How crazy is this!  They think they are on a roll.    I can’t beleive this country is arguing about religion, all over the news. What happened to separation of church and state.    This is bad.

  • Amy

    For those of you who have encountered anything but southern hospitality while you were in the South, I say bless your heart : )

    Let’s call it like it is–there are rude people in every region of this country. After reading your comments it’s a wonder we are still connected as states. I am a proud, born and raised, southern girl who grew up to become a teacher. We don’t have a school paper because our funding has been cut and we have lost countless electives in our schools such as art, music, and journalism. I respect the view point and thoughts of this young lady, but I would also respect her if she was writing on the other side of the issue.

    I am saddened by some of your comments and regret to hear that you feel “choked” by the “Bible Belt”. We’re not all “back woods” just as you’re not all “yankees”. I have visited the North (New York, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, and Michigan) and from what I have found–if you’re nice to people they’ll be nice in return. But when I was in NY it was the same for me as for the lady from Chicago here–my accent turned quite a few heads and I was looked at as though I had no education.

    I love it here (Alabama). I watched my state and hometown of Tuscaloosa be torn to pieces literally by the tornadoes last April 27th. People from all parts of the South, and North, West, and East come to help us. There was no color, religion, or other discriminating factors; we were united.

    I believe Krystal has a right to her own voice here in the South and for that fact anywhere else in this country. I commend her for pushing the envelope but regret to see another young person turn away from religion because of the actions of some so called Christians. As a Christian and lover of the South, I will continue to pray for my country and those men and women who serve to protect our rights to even have this discussion. I would never push my religion in my classroom, but I do hope my students see the work of God through my actions and words towards them and the way I handle issues inside and outside my classroom. I want to share the Word not shove it down their throats.

    As a teacher, I see all walks of life and I love every single one of them. I don’t do it for the income but for the outcome. I accept them as they come, after all Jesus does.

    If you ever decide to visit again, I hope you have a better experience. It’s beautiful down here and the people can be too.

  • Maru

    Just want to say, as a life long atheist, I don’t think that it’s 1st Amendment violation for a teacher to wear a religious t-shirt (though it rather inappropriate), nor do I think it’s wrong for a teacher to use a Bible quote as the “Quote of the Day” (the bible is, after all, very quotable)

    But everything else was pretty wack. I hate it when I see/experience discrimination against atheists. It’s one of the few things that truly makes me depressed.


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