A few weeks ago, I shared a story about a high school teacher who sent the Secular Student Alliance a strange letter referencing the SSA’s Educators’ Brochure (PDF). Here’s an excerpt from his letter:
It was from one of those students that I received this brochure. Not surprisingly, they could not get a teacher to sponsor the club. As educators we are dedicated to conveying the truth to students… They should not feel the need for a safe haven.
Educational staff has the responsibility of preparing students to be responsible adults. We expect all students to be treated with respect. We are not, however, obligated to protect those who choose to be deviants in society.
I’m happy to say there’s an update to the case. Everything looks to be resolved, says the SSA:
We brought the situation to the school’s attention and explained why it was unacceptable. Pointing to the law, the moral landscape, and the bullying that secular students often face, we made it clear that discrimination against nontheistic students in school cannot be tolerated.
They agreed. The teacher backtracked and pledged never to discriminate against students for any reason. The administrators reaffirmed their commitment to diversity and the rights of all students to form clubs. They spoke with the teacher to ensure his understanding of the law and to emphasize the consequences should any evidence surface that he’s not obeying it. They made it clear that his personal views would not interfere with how he treats students and that he needs to make sure every student does feel welcome in his classroom.
The students are preparing to get their Secular Student Alliance club up and running as soon as the school year starts, with the administration’s and the Secular Student Alliance’s full support. With our eyes — and the administration’s — on the situation, teachers will be on their best behavior. Discrimination will not stand on our watch.
That is great news for everybody involved, especially the students who will now be able to start their group. JT Eberhard deserves a huge deal of credit for getting the administration to see the light.
On a side note, I think it’s a good thing that the SSA is choosing not to release the names of the teacher or the school. You might be able to persuade me otherwise, but I think putting names on this type of case would allow us to say, “Oh, this only happens in that state” and ignore it. By keeping it anonymous, it makes the point that these sorts of shenanigans happen all over the country.
Normally, we’re fortunate when students have the courage to speak up.
In this case, I guess we have to thank the teacher for whistleblowing on himself.