Anonymous asks:

What would parents and professionals suggest for dealing with teacher including Jesus in curriculum?

My son is in a public high school in an AP English class.  His teacher keeps insisting that "believing and asking for help from Jesus will be the only way to learn and get a good grade in his class." We are practicing Jews. Their first two writing assignments were to include the philosophy of Jesus.  My son asked for an alternate assignment - he was refused.  He failed both assignments.  This is not his usual grade and for what it is worth he scored over 700 on the SAT writing section.  I have formally asked to switch him to another class, however, there is only one AP class offered for senior English and one honors section that fits in to his section.  The honors class would be acceptable, except it is at maximum capacity.   It may help to know that this is a school located in the suburbs of Washington D.C. which has much diversity, including children of many religions or who are atheists.  I believe that this is illegal. (Separation of church and state- right?)   I would consider petitioning the school board except I know that this teacher is on the cusp of retirement and quite frankly his behavior is well known and accepted within the school district.  What would parents and professionals suggest?   Thank you for any help.

Anonymous and frustrated!
Member Added on Oct 5, 2009
Thank you all for writing. Your information was exceptionally helpful.  My son has now taken the stance that this situation is a "learning moment for him" and a "teaching moment" for his English teacher.  He feels that by staying in this class he will gain some experience with working with difficult people which may serve him well in a career with law enforcement. He also spends quite a bit of time now preparing arguments to statements by the teacher as way to challenge him.  Evidently the teacher has welcomed my son's open challenges and now has become more lenient (such as giving an extra day to complete assignments due to Jewish holidays). Furthermore, by openly challenging the teacher in class (respectfully), other students now have risen to the occasion, as well.  

So, although as a parent I continue to be appalled by this situation, I am glad that my son has found a way to persevere and actually gain a few valuable life lessons. I also know that he appreciated that his father and I support him with his decision to either stay in this class or asked to be moved. As for those who indicated that we should contact the school district there is no need, as other parents have done so.  Perhaps this will "enlighten" the teacher to tone down his use of his own religious belief system as a template for class assignments.

Thank you again!
In Topics: School and Academics, Working with my child's teacher(s), State education standards
> 60 days ago



Oct 3, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

This is a very difficult matter from many different perspectives, not the least of which is the dilemma of bucking a system that appears to condone behavior that is inappropriate at best, and very possibly illegal or unconstitutional at worst.

I strongly recommend educating yourself further by reading the articles suggested in Ms. Graab's reply.  Once you are fortified with more information, you will need to decide whether you want to deal with the conflict and notoriety you might vibe up by exerting pressure on the officials in your district.  Your willingness to engage in controversy or experience negative blow-back (maybe even outright discrimination) is important to consider. Depending on how much you want to push, how much time and money you want to spend, you might find it helpful to contact a lawyer.

I would also suggest talking to a clergy person of your faith to review aspects of this problem and receive emotional/spiritual, as well as practical support around dealing with the issues embedded in this type of situation. In addition holding conversations with your son, your family, and trusted friends may help to yield ideas and strategies that you may not yet have considered.

The tough reality is that historically children of all races, creeds, religions, and beliefs have experienced unfair and discriminatory practices to varying degrees in a variety of social,political and cultural circumstances. While these situations can make a conscious, conscientious, and caring parent furious, the outcome for the child does not have to be negative.  

You have a bright and accomplished son.  He is on his way to life success.  Perhaps this experience can help him learn about history and human nature in a way that will empower rather than impede him. The discussions you have  about: 1. how to handle this class; 2. how to handle himself when others try to impose a belief system; and 3. how to hold on to his sense of himself in a situation where he is in the minority, can benefit him throughout his life. Good luck with this.  I would like very much to know how this goes for your son and for your family.

Bette J. Freedson, LICSW, LCSW, CGP
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Additional Answers (2)

dgraab , Parent writes:
I think it's inappropriate and unconstitutional for a teacher at a U.S. public school to require "believing and asking for help from Jesus" as "the only way to learn and get a good grade in his class". There's an article on that I recommend you review...

Public Schools and Religion: What Parents Need to Know

Also, have you documented this situation in writing to the principal or the district superintendent? If you are finding resistance to your concerns at the school, district or school board levels, you might need to enlist the help of the ACLU or another organization that specializes in protecting religious freedom.

Good luck -- I hope you are able to resolve this matter with your son's teacher as soon as possible.

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Umoja writes:
The class assignments are important part of ones grade. You do not have to believe in Jesus philosophy in order to write the assignment. Ask your God for guidance, so your son can pass his class. I had to write papers on subjects I did not agree with. I treated it as an assignment. I know your son can too. This is just a test. For an example, Jesus philosophy is......
In-conclusion, Jews philosophy is..........
> 60 days ago

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