KATY, Texas – The Katy Independent School District released a statement today in response to parent complaints about an assignment that required students to deny God.
West Memorial Junior High student Jordan Wooley, 12, addressed the school board Monday about an assignment in her reading class she said questioned her faith, and asserted that God was a myth.
Wooley’s teacher required students to classify statements as opinion, fact, or “commonplace assertion” – otherwise known as a myth. One of the statements read “There is a God,” and numerous religious students objected to the teacher’s insistence the statement is not true.
“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,” Wooley told board members. “When I tried to argue, she told me to prove it, and I tried to reference things such as the Bible and stories I have read before from people who have died and went to heaven but came back and told their stories, and she told me both were just things people were doing to get attention.”
Posted by Education Action Group on Tuesday, October 27, 2015
“Another student asked the teacher if we could put what we believe in the paper, and she said we could … but you would fail the paper if you do,” Wooley said.
Wooley’s mother, Chantel Wooley, recorded a video of her daughter explaining the situation and posted it to Facebook Monday. She told ABC 13 she supports her daughter’s decision to speak out against the assignment and take a stand for her faith.
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“I think that the teacher crossed a serious line when she led impressionable minds to write there was no God … that God wasn’t real,” Chantel Wooley told ABC 13. “I think that infringes on my child’s rights.”
Katy ISD released a statement to the media today about the issue, calling the assignment “unnecessary” and “ill-conceived” and vowing to take “appropriate personnel action” against the teacher, who was not named by Wooley, media reports or the school district.
The statement read:
Yesterday, October 26, at the end of the school day, two West Memorial Junior High parents contacted the school’s principal to share their concern over a classroom activity that they felt questioned students’ religious beliefs. The school principal immediately responded to the parents by informing them that she would investigate and meet with the teacher the following morning.
At the conclusion of the investigation today, the principal determined that the classroom activity included an item that was unnecessary for achieving the instructional standard. The activity, which was intended to encourage critical thinking skills and dialogue by engaging students in an exercise wherein they identified statements as fact, opinion, or common assertion was not intended to question or challenge any student’s religious beliefs as reported by some media outlets.
Administrators contend the teacher herself is Christian.
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. Still, this does not excuse the fact that this ungraded activity was ill-conceived and because of that, its intent had been misconstrued. As a result, the activity will no longer be used by the school, and appropriate personnel action will be taken.
The school regrets any misconceptions that may have resulted from this teacher-developed classroom activity and assures its school community that the religious beliefs of all students and staff are welcomed and valued at Memorial Junior High.
And while the issue appears to be settled in Katy, the debate rages on online.
“’Oh wait, I, I, I’m a Christian too. Yeah, that’s it, I’m a Christian.’ No Christian tells people that God is ‘a myth of our imagination…and believing it is completely wrong,’” Doug Packer posted. “That doesn’t even make sense, unless of course the teacher is lying to save their job.”
“Putting ‘There is a God’ on a fact/opinion assignment reeks of bad judgement,” Some Guy posted. “This is a First Amendment issue, because the answer to that question has an inherent position on religion.”
“Prove God isn’t there,” Gourry added.
“To deny the existence of God is to deny yourself,” Marianne Sandy wrote. “The spark of the divine is in all living things.”
“Magical, spooky-wooky invisible friend!” Pluto Animus countered. “Oh, grow up.”
“In the end Science cannot explain the ultimate origin of the universe and in fact some scientists simply state that something has always had to exist with no precursor,” charlesriley added. “In the end this is the same claim as religious persons except they place an intelligence to this something and call the something God.”