Suffer the Little Children

File under: unbelievable and despicable.

As numerous news sources have reported, a second grade student at Forest Park Elementary School in Fort Wayne was asked by a classmate where he went to church. The seven-year-old said he didn’t go to church, and didn’t believe in God–but it was fine with him if the girl posing the question believed in God.

This evidently upset the girl, who began to cry. At that point, the teacher stepped in. And punished the second-grader. She told him she was “very concerned” about what he had done. Then she required him to sit by himself at lunch and forbid him to talk to the other children. For three days.

According to the lawsuit that has been filed on the second-grader’s behalf:

A.B. had been publicly separated from his classmates and informed that he could not speak to them. All the students in his class heard and were aware of this. He was publicly shamed and made to feel that his personal beliefs were terribly wrong.

No efforts were made to correct the damages that had been done.

A.B. came home from school on multiple occasions crying saying that he knows that everyone at school — teachers and students — hate him.

Even now there are some classmates who will not talk to A.B.

Even now A.B. remains anxious and fearful about school, which is completely contrary to how he felt before this incident.

What kind of teacher humiliates a second-grader for sharing beliefs of which she doesn’t approve? Would she treat a Jewish or Muslim or Sikh child this way? Or is her lack of compassion and humanity reserved for children from non-religious families?

And why is she in a classroom?

18 thoughts on “Suffer the Little Children

  1. I have no inside information on this, but it seems there are two sides to the story, and maybe we shouldn’t rush to judgement.

    From Fort Wayne Community Schools:

    Statement Regarding Lawsuit Against Forest Park Teacher

    Fort Wayne Community Schools values the diversity in the students, staff and families in our district in all aspects, including race, religion, color, gender, national origin, sexuality, disability or native language. A lawsuit recently filed against Forest Park Teacher Michelle Meyer alleges that she did not uphold these beliefs. However, an investigation conducted by FWCS immediately upon notification of the incident found no merit in the allegations included in the lawsuit. Our investigation in March found she acted appropriately in dealing with an issue between students in a significantly different manner than detailed in the lawsuit. As a school district, we feel we must defend and protect the reputation of our staff when members are being unfairly maligned. While it is always a citizen’s right to pursue legal action, we are saddened that this has become an issue threatening the integrity of one of our teachers, of our staff, of our schools and of our community.

  2. Chuck; a 2nd grader doesn’t have the mental acuity to make up a story of this nature or his punishment. Did the Fort Wayne Community Schools system question the teacher who would, naturally, deny she was unfair. Other second graders wouldn’t know or understand why the child was being punished nor would a second grader be that upset over a religious issue. There is more to this story than FWCS will ever admit due to siding with “their” teacher and possibly other staff members who agree with the religious views. Indiana has become a pseudo religious community; harboring one set of religious beliefs they call Christianity.

  3. The school’s statement sounds like a white wash to me: “We investigated ourselves and found we are innocent.”

    Assuming the story is accurate to begin with, and I have no doubts at this point that it is, the teacher needs to be fired. The “Offended” girl, obviously taught at home to push her religious trip, instigated the conflict and was “Offended” when the little boy didn’t agree with her. The teacher could have expanded this to an even handed discussion about getting along in spite of disagreements, but she instead acted to squelch any rebellion against the established order.

    That is considerably more disgusting than someone not buying in to the Christian religion. The teacher needs to leave.

  4. There is a sadness to this story and that is that the truth about the situation will never really come out. One reason is that everyone involved has a different view of what happened. I can only speculate based on my 25 plus years in the classroom, that there is a little bit of truth in both the accused and accuser’s recollection of events. I would assume that if the teacher is guilty of these actions that some similar events have occurred with her in the past, and the student’s family may have been looking for an axe to grind with the school corporation.

    I can say that in my elementary art classroom this type of conversation often comes up among the students, and I always use it as an opportunity to help kids understand and respect the views and beliefs of others. Situations like this can be resolved by teachers that know how to diffuse the situation, or administrators that know how to communicate and counsel difficult staff and parents. Somewhere in this story we are going to find out that someone dropped the ball and let it get out of hand.

  5. Awful treatment. My Aunt had an awful teacher when she we starting school.The teacher put her in the closet. My Aunt hated school (was fearful of it) from then on. She was a bright lady but that one incident spoiled school for that timid lady. Clearly that teacher (In IN) does not need to be around little children. Maybe in a “Charter school” where they preach a lot but not in a real school.

  6. Fired or sued? Perhaps there is another approach. School and family can sit down together and talk through the question. The “melting” of nations matter might be broached. Perhaps even the matter of Freedom of religion. Children may learn their ideas are important, but not that of the a tyrant. I wish we didn’t call our religious figures kings or Lords. There are certainly better names, like “friend.” It puts the relationship on a more appropriate human/humane level.

  7. Here is the link – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/08/03/lawsuit-alleges-7-year-old-quizzed-on-religion-ordered-to-sit-alone-at-lunch-for-telling-classmates-he-didnt-believe-in-god/.

    Another link – http://www.journalgazette.net/news/local/courts/Religion-focus-ofsuit-vs–teacher-7378928

    AHH, that good old time religion – The public humiliation of those who believe in the wrong Christian Religion, or another Religion, or is an agnostic, or atheist, and yes let me think what the other word is, yes by Jove I have it “shunning”.

  8. What if the girl said she had gay married parents, and A.B. said he didn’t believe in gay marriage?

    If the girl started crying, would the school be justified in punishing A.B.?

  9. Schools are often so fearful of negative headlines and lawsuits that it’s less expensive in PR and dollars to dismiss employees who are the subject of lawsuits regardless of the facts. (That was also true before tenure was eliminated.) Given the school system’s response, I have to wonder if the story is true.

    Nevertheless, the punishment described for the child is outrageous and deplorable and raises serious questions about the teacher’s judgment. No child should be punished for expressing their belief or non-belief in God. If the story is true, I’m glad ACLU has filed suit (ACLU does their homework before suing) and hope the school system takes steps to make sure similar incidents don’t recur and to help the students system-wide respect each other’s religious preferences.

  10. If the teacher was competent her first concern would be the crying girl and it’s easy to guess things went south from there. While I’d like to believe what transpired was more misunderstanding than anything else there are people so addicted to Faith that perhaps that contributed also.

    As to a lawsuit action that doesn’t strike me as good for anyone. Not the kids, teacher, school district, parents or public.

    Some people do have over-riding Faith, some people are sensitive about their lack thereof, but courts to me cannot fix these cultural issues.

    There are many, many people today who would have resolved this productively. A sit down with everyone involved and respectful exploration of how everyone is different and that has nothing to do with social interaction.

    Extremism is the end of respect and there seems to be a whole heaping helping of extremism in this case.

  11. Excuse me if I over serve myself with blog space here.

    One of the interesting exchanges at the Republican “debate” was between Trump and the beautiful blond Fox about political correctness.

    Trump declared it to be a cultural weakness that he didn’t have time for. So he acted rudely as is his custom.

    We all know that rudeness is fundamental to extremism because it is the manifestation of disrespect upon which extremism is constructed.

    There have always been, and will always be, extremists but we are the first generation to suffer from an organized evangelical outreach to recruit new ones. Between the NRA, ALEC, Fox, the Republican Party, Limbaugh, Beck, and many Hollywood movies, there seems to be belief that promoting (excusing?) rudeness is a powerful attraction for latent extremists.

    The effectiveness that has been demonstrated of that recruiting tool has uncovered an important truth. We are barely and reluctantly civilized. All it takes is a minor cue and we’re back in the caves slinging rocks at neighbors.

    Disappointing.

  12. Oh, bullsh*t, Chuck. My daughter was always being tortured by the local bible church’s little demons for not being a believer. She was told she was coming to church with the little girl across the street so she would get her candy treat for bringing in new kids. First of all, that kid needed candy the way I need assertiveness training. When I objected, this same little girl announced in front of her nana that Barbara had been invited and was expected to attend. Mom (me) loudly announced that we didn’t get a damn what had been ‘planned,’ (and this in front of two five year olds) and further if anyone was going to indoctrinate my child it was going to be me. There was a very awkward silence afterwards, but it was NEVER brought up again. However, my daughter was also castigated by one of her teachers (very upfront about being Assembly of God) about their biblical transgressions, which, basically, did nothing but convince my daughter that christians were to be avoided whenever possible, and never, NEVER encouraged. Happily, the principal who was also Assembly of God and tacitly encouraged so much of this proselytizing behavior was told to retire, and a much more effective–and secular–principal took over. So, I’m really not interested in reading what the school’s lawyer came up with to justify this behavior because I have seen so much of it, and I’m glad the parents fought back. I was several times on the verge of going to down school the years she had the more stridently religious teachers. Given the over the top zealotry (and bribery) of the kids by the local boo-boo cultists, I can’t even imagine what would have happened if the teachers had been of the same persuasion. Their bigotry had to be a little more subtle–they didn’t want to lose their pension and benefits over it. There was one little girl whose mother was Jewish (they were both non-religious) and I know that that created problems because of the overwhelmingly evangelical, fundamentalist flavor of this area, and the comments made to me about them when the person made the mistake of assuming I was a sympathetic christian.

  13. Plus, if that little girl and teacher were so traumatized by a non-christian, that’s what all those bible schools supported with our tax money are for. Of course, her teacher would lose most of her pay, and all of her benefits, because we’re doing it for god, not for money, and the probability of that little girl actually getting a good education in one are slim to none, but it certainly would protect them from the secular atmosphere in public school.

  14. As a native of Fort Wayne (left in 1984 and never looked back), I am not surprised. This post makes me glad to be moving to South Florida next week to live among “all the other tolerant sinners”.

    Sheila, I will continue to read and admire you…just from afar!

  15. I suspect the little girl that started to cry was because she had been taught that those who did not have Jesus in their heart were going to hell. And maybe she cared a lot for the little boy, and this was her “natural” reaction to think that he was going to fry. I suspect a lot of the “blame” would be on the indoctrination she had received.
    But it sure seems “plausible” that a teacher would respond this way, when she reads only that a child has been made to cry because of something that the boy “said”.
    And could it be that it was because it was a “girl” that was made to cry?
    Would the same ‘setting’ that found an unbeliever in their midst to be a “crime” not also assume that if a girl is in tears it must be a boys (bully’s) fault?

  16. The little girl should have been punished for asking about another child’s religion and then crying when it didn’t align with her beliefs. SHE was the problem, not the non-churchgoing little boy. Why didn’t the stupid teacher see this? I agree with other posters who indicated the teacher should have been fired.

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