Texas school district backs teacher who asked her students to deny God, saying she was just misunderstood
A school district in Texas has found that contrary to allegations made against her, the teacher accused by one of her students of having attacked her Christian faith did not force students to deny the existence of God.
"However, we know and fully agree that an item included in the activity worksheet was inappropriate and wrong. For that, we sincerely apologise," said Superintendent Alton Frailey of the Katy Independent School District in Katy, Texas, after an investigation was completed.
A teacher gave Grade 7 students an activity worksheet on "Identifying Factual Claims, Commonplace Assertions, and Opinions" on the statement "There is a God" among others.
Student Jordan Wooley of West Memorial Junior High School told the school board Monday that the assignment forced students to essentially state that there is no proof that God exists.
"Today I was given an assignment in school that questioned my faith and told me that God was not real," she said, according to the Christian News Network. "Our teacher had started off saying that the assignment had been giving problems all day. We were asked to take a poll to say whether God is fact, opinion or a myth and she told anyone who said fact or opinion was wrong and God was only a myth."
Students were allegedly told that the correct answer was "commonplace assertion," which means a "statement many people assume to be true but which may or may not be true."
Wooley said, "When I tried to argue [in favour of God's existence], she told me to prove it."
She claimed that one of her friends wrote that God was fact but her answer was marked wrong.
"She turned in her paper, and she had still put that God was a fact and to be true, and my teacher crossed the answer out several times to tell her it was completely wrong," she said.
After its investigation, the district said the particular assignment was "unnecessary for achieving the instructional standard" but pointed out that the teacher is actually a Christian and the assignment was misunderstood.
"The teacher is distraught by this incident, as some commentary has gone as far as to vilify her without knowing her, her Christian faith, or the context of the classroom activity," Frailey said during a press conference on Wednesday
"Still, this does not excuse the fact that this ungraded activity was ill-conceived and because of that, its intent had been misconstrued," the district superintendent added.
Frailey said, "I believe the response [from the teacher] was, 'Prove your point. Well, I think this. Well, you think that,'" It was not a hostile thing, I don't believe."
"Nothing that the principal has found supports the assertions that the teacher deliberately threatened [students], or tried to force them to deny God," Frailey said. "In the investigation, those assertions were not corroborated by the other students. Was the activity graded? It was not graded. Was it 40 percent of their grade? Were the students told they had to deny God? No one corroborated that at all."
Nevertheless, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he is proud of Wooley.
"I'm proud of this 7th grader's unyielding commitment to God. She's Texas tough. #IStandWithJordan," he tweeted on Tuesday.
Wooley's mother, Chantel, said, "Jordan's faith is continually being tested. She feels like she's being made to be a liar when all that she did was tell the truth," Wooley's mother Chantal wrote on Facebook Thursday.
"She was harassed at school, she was flipped off in the hallway, she was cursed at and blamed for this situation that her teacher and administration has created. She has chosen to forgive them and pray for them."