Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Agree: School Went Over The Line On This One

There's nothing wrong with the mere mention of religious views in school, but even I think the school crossed a line in this case:
A North Carolina school has apologized after a teacher complained about a religious message found inside an Operation Christmas Child project.

“Our intent was not to offend anyone,” said Ira Trollinger, superintendent of McDowell County Schools in Marion, NC.

Trollinger said students at Glenwood Elementary School were preparing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, part of a community service project.

Operation Christmas Child is sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, an organization run by Franklin Graham. They expect to send more than 8 million shoe box gifts to underprivileged children in 100 countries. Around 60,000 churches and 60,000 community groups in the United States are participating.

As part of the project, the school children received a questionnaire that asked students to fill in the blank: “I love Jesus because ______.”

A part time tutor at the school complained about the questionnaire arguing that it crossed the line and may have violated the First Amendment rights of students.

Trollinger told Fox News & Commentary that no children complained and no parents complained – just the part time tutor.
It doesn't matter who complained, it's still inappropriate.


Mrs. R said...

But Darren, that's what Operation Christmas Child *IS*. It's a Christian organization delivering not just a box of toys and toiletries, but also the Gospel and the Christmas Story, to children in third world countries.

Which is why, when I taught in public schools in NC, I never suggested that we do Operation Christmas Child as a service project. It doesn't really mesh well with the don't mention Christianity lest someone feel oppressed approach that is so common around here these days. And I was OK with that, because in reality I did teach a number of students who were not Christian and I would never knowingly make them uncomfortable.

But still - the school (the teacher? someone?) should have known enough about the service project to know that it is religiously based BEFORE it was introduced.

Left Coast Ref said...

My wife and I put together 2 boxes for OCC. The fact that it is a Christian organization running the project means there might be some references to Christianity (their whole purpose is to share the Gospel with those that haven't heard it before). However, the company does not require you to put any note or message so I agree that the Public School probably shouldn't have used the questionnaire.

However, I disagree with you about it not mattering who complained. If the kids and parents didn't complain, then why did the tutor care? Did the tutor have to fill one out too? Again, I agree that it was not appropriate IF it was a required project for all students to be involved in. If it was voluntary, then I don't see the problem.

KauaiMark said...

"...children received a questionnaire"

We participate in this project with the grand kids every year.

They love picking out toys and school supplies to be sent overseas to other kids that have little or nothing.

Instructions are to NOT include any religious or war related items.

Not once in 5yrs have I seen any "questionnaire" from the organization involved with the project.

Begs the question as to source of the questionnaire?

maxutils said...

yeah, you can't do that. evenour school's christmas toy drive is questionable, though well intentioned. this one, though . . .way over the line.

Darren said...

A toy drive without exhortations to God or Jesus or any other deity is *not* questionable.

Anonymous said...

Just because no one said anything doesn't mean that there weren't students and families who also disagreed but felt that in their community it would be a problem to complain about religion in their nonreligious childs school activities.

maxutils said...

Um . . . it's a CHRISTmas toy drive, Darren. How does that NOT acknowledge deity? Why isn't it timed to mesh with Hanukkah?
or be in October? I personally don't find it offensive, but it is what it is. . .a Christian marketing plan.

Darren said...

Don't jerk my chain. That it is derived from a Christian holiday doesn't mean that it still is one. And until you can show me where in the religious texts you find decorated trees, a fat man giving gifts, and flying reindeer, I'm going to call your argument for the 22 (deux-deux) that it is.

maxutils said...

Not a chain jerk, this time. It's not a ublic school's place to do this. And, a) the timing is obvious, b) there are plenty of other places to donate toys to, and c) you KNOW there are teachers who give extra credit for students who particiate. And, I don't know if this is still true . . . but for a long time the SJUSD calendar referred to both Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur as 'Jewish holiday'. BTW . . . I feel the same way about the memos we used to get about not testing on those days (despite the fact they invariably fell on the day most conducive to testing). Or the ones asking us to be understanding of students fasting during Ramadan. It isn't the place of a public school to support or coddle religious beliefs, or, for that matter to have their kids bring toys in. It's to educate. All of this should hapen in the home.

Darren said...

We're not required to *ignore* religion, just not to "establish" it. The mere mention of Christmas doesn't establish religion, and neither does giving presents (a secular tradition, though derived from the wise men from the east).

As members of the community we can make reasonable accommodations for the religious (or any other) beliefs of our students. That doesn't mean we have to ignore anything pertaining to religion.

Darren said...

BTW, I seem to recall that you used to brag about what a haul you'd get in Christmas gifts from students. I don't recall that you ever turned any presents down :-)