Category: Education

Betsy DeVos wants to allow schools to discriminate against LGBTQ students in secret

By John Gallagher

While the president’s tweets get all the attention, the damage being done by his minion’s policy changes often escape notice. In the latest example, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wants to make it easy for Christian schools to discriminate against LGBTQ students without having to reveal their bias to the government.

At issue are regulations under Title IX, the federal law that prevents discrimination on the basis of gender. Advocates, including Department of Education employees, have been concerned from early in DeVos’s tenure that watering down that protection will have an outsized impact on LGBTQ students.

In the past, schools have been able to opt out of complying with the law if they cite a religious exemption. However, the Obama administration required the schools to submit a letter explaining their request for an exemption. The list of schools was then published online. 

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

Texas board votes to eliminate Hillary Clinton, Helen Keller from history curriculum

By Lauren McGaughy

History curriculum in Texas remembers the Alamo but could soon forget Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller.

As part of an effort to “streamline” the social studies curriculum in public schools, the State Board of Education voted Friday to adjust what students in every grade are required to learn in the classroom. Among the changes, board members approved the removal of several historical figures, including Clinton and Keller, from the curriculum.

The board also voted to keep in the curriculum a reference to the “heroism” of the defenders of the Alamo, which had been recommended for elimination, as well as Moses’ influence on the writing of the nation’s founding documents, multiple references to “Judeo-Christian” values and a requirement that students explain how the “Arab rejection of the State of Israel has led to ongoing conflict” in the Middle East.

The vote Friday was preliminary. The board can amend the curriculum changes further before taking a final vote in November.

Barbara Cargill, a Republican board member from Houston and former chairwoman, said work groups recommended removing Clinton and Keller, and the board agreed.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

Arizona Asked a Young Earth Creationist to Review Evolution Teaching Standards

By David G. McAfee

A Young Earth Creationist who says he was called by God to “teach from the Biblical creation perspective” is part of a team in charge of reviewing Arizona’s science standards for teaching evolution. To the surprise of absolutely no one, it’s not going well.

Joseph Kezele, the president of the Arizona Origin Science Association, was appointed by State Superintendent Diane Douglass to serve on the committee last month. They are working to revise curriculum for science — and things were already dire when we first reported on the science standards back in May.

Now it has been confirmed by the Phoenix New Times that Kezele, who makes Creationist videos and teaches biology at a Christian school in Phoenix, is part of a small group who review and amends the new standards.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

AHA Warn TN School of Teacher Violating Church/State Separation

By Ed Brayton

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center, part of the American Humanist Association, has sent a letter warning a school in Tennessee that it better stop a science teacher from teaching creationism or face a federal lawsuit. The school is Cascade Middle School of the Bedford County School District in Shelbyville, TN.

Monica Miller, AHA senior counsel, writes, “Children are urged to reject the scientifically accepted view of evolution in this class, merely because it conflicts with bible interpretation.” The teacher “recently played a video called ‘The Theory of Genesis: How Old is the World?’” in class, disputing the scientific consensus on the age of the world and instead promoting a “young earth” view. The letter also details that the teacher has played other videos with Christian overtones, mentions “the great flood” almost daily, and frequently tells the class that “God” is responsible for natural phenomena.

“The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment strictly forbids public school teachers from advancing religious views and presenting Christian mythology as scientific fact in the public school classrooms,” says Miller. “The teacher here is not merely sharing his personal religious views with students during class time, which alone would be inappropriate, but is aggressively injecting those views into the actual curriculum, making this an egregious constitutional violation.”

The American Humanist Association’s letter demands that appropriate actions are taken to immediately stop Christian proselytizing and coercion at Bedford County Schools and at Cascade Middle School specifically.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

Maryland Taxpayers Are Paying Millions to Religious Schools Without Oversight

By David G. McAfee

Millions of taxpayer dollars in Maryland go to “church-exempt” schools (private schools run by churches) that get little to no government oversight, and a local news investigation revealed a multitude of problems at one school in particular. Reporter Chris Papst was tipped off by a social worker who realized students who supposedly graduated from New Spiritual Foundation Christian Academy didn’t seem to know “basic words.”

WBFF’s “Project Baltimore” noted that there are 534 church-exempt schools in Maryland, and when you see what’s happening in this one building, you have to wonder how widespread the problems are with the rest of these schools.

The school’s website suggests students obtain a quality education, and there are plenty of pictures of happy graduates, but the news team revealed a very different story when speaking with graduates. What’s more is that, before they began digging, state officials had no idea the depths of the problems.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

Call for atheism to be included in religious education

By Harriet Sherwood

Religious education in schools needs a major overhaul to reflect an increasingly diverse world and should include the study of atheism, agnosticism and secularism, a two-year investigation has concluded.

The subject should be renamed Religion and Worldviews to equip young people with respect and empathy for different faiths and viewpoints, says the Commission on Religious Education in a report published on Sunday.

Content “must reflect the complex, diverse and plural nature of worldviews”, drawing from “a range of religious, philosophical, spiritual and other approaches to life, including different traditions within Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism, non-religious worldviews and concepts including humanism, secularism, atheism and agnosticism”.

All pupils in publicly funded schools should study the subject up to year 11, the report says, but it falls short of recommending the abolition of the right of parents to withdraw children from religious education. It comes three weeks after figures showed the number of pupils taking religious studies at A-level this year had fallen by 22% compared with 2017, and two days after new data suggested more than half the population has no religion.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

GOP Legislator Sentenced to 220 Months in Jail for Bible School Kickback Scheme

By Hemant Mehta

Former Arkansas State Senator Johnathan Woods has been sentenced to 220 months in prison for a fraud scheme that involved another Republican legislator and the president of a conservative Christian college.

Beginning in January of 2013, Woods and State Rep. Micah Neal gave $600,000 in taxpayer money to two non-profits in the state in exchange for bribes. One of those groups was Ecclesia College in the northwest part of the state. The small Bible school received the bulk of that money… but only because they agreed to give the politicians a healthy kickback.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Arkansas:

The evidence further showed that Woods and Neal received bribes from officials at both non-profits, including Oren Paris III, 50, of Springdale, Arkansas, who was the president of a college. Woods initially facilitated $200,000 of GIF money to the college and later, together with Neal, directed another $200,000 to the college, all in exchange for kickbacks. To pay and conceal the kickbacks to Woods and Neal, Paris paid a portion of the [General Improvement Funds] to a consulting company controlled by Randell G. Shelton Jr., 39, of Alma, Arkansas. Shelton then kept a portion of the money and paid the other portion to Woods and Neal. Paris also bribed Woods by hiring Woods’s friend to an administrative position at the college.

That’s… a lot of ethical and legal violations. You’ve got a Holy Trinity of Establishment Clause violations, bribery, and fraud.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

Kavanaugh Admits He Supports Christian Prayers At Public School Events

By Michael Stone

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh rejects the separation of church and state and supports Christian prayers at public school events.

Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, indicated that if confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice he would support allowing Christian prayers at public school events in a little noticed moment during day 2 of his Supreme Court confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Freedom From Religion Foundation reports that Kavanaugh expressed his support for prayer in public school in an exchange with Sen. John Cornyn during day 2 of his Supreme Court confirmation:

… in an exchange with his old buddy Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Kavanaugh tacitly expressed his agreement that the landmark 2000 Supreme Court case, Santa Fe v. Doe, was incorrectly decided because it was hostile toward religion.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

Catholic School Leader Resigns After Decades of Mishandling Sexual Abuse Reports

By Hemant Mehta

Mary Miller, the president and former principal of Presentation High School, a private Catholic school near Silicon Valley in California, has resigned after accusations that she never did enough to protect students from predator teachers.

The saga began last October when writer Kathryn Leehane wrote a personal essay for the Washington Postabout how the legal system failed her when she reported a “gropey teacher who showed me pornography” in high school. Because she reported the problem a few years after graduating, a detective said there was nothing he could do because “too much time” had passed. She eventually shared her secret with a trusted friend… who said the same teacher had sexually assaulted her.

… When [the friend] told the administration, they scared her into taking back the story.

It galvanized me. No longer attending the school, I wrote a letter to the new administration, detailing my experiences with the teacher. My hope for justice bloomed when the principal replied and asked for my permission to discuss the accusations with him. But after I gave my consent, that hope slowly withered over the next two years, as I heard nothing further and the teacher remained at the school.

While the specifics were left out of that story, the school was Presentation High and the principal was Mary Miller.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

Community schools with no religious observance ‘backed by 60% of Scots’

By Lynsey Bews

The Humanist Society Scotland is asking parents to support a new petition calling on the Scottish Parliament to give headteachers the right to adopt a “non-religious community schools model” as an alternative to the current non-denominational and denominational system.

Polling by Survation found that 60 per cent of people would support such non-religious schools, open to children of all faiths and none, while 22 per cent neither support or oppose the idea.

A further 10 per cent of those surveyed were opposed while 8 per cent did not know.

At present, Scottish pupils can attend a state-funded, non-denominational school and be “opted-out” of religious observance but the Humanist Society argues this could lead to children being stigmatised among their peers.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.