Sunday, July 04, 2010

School District Sued for Banning Bibles on Religious Freedom Day

No freedom for Christians

For years, the Collier County School district allowed a local Christian organization, World Changers of Florida, to distribute free Bibles to interested students during off-school hours on January 16 for Religious Freedom Day.

Now the group is filing suit after being told by the school board that it can no longer distribute the Bibles on campus because they do not provide any educational benefit to the students.

The school board and superintendent “have denied World Changers access for no other reason than the religious content and viewpoint of the literature it wishes to distribute, specifically Bibles,” the lawsuit contends. “This unequal treatment, based upon the religious nature of the literature World Changers wishes to distribute, is unconstitutional content-based discrimination, because World Changers’ materials otherwise fit within the parameters Defendants set for the forum.”

The group goes on to say that the school allowed other secular organizations to distribute literature but prevented World Changers from doing so even though it complied with all of the school’s guidelines.

“We are compelled to sue to protect the right simply to make free Bibles available to students in public schools,” Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, the legal group representing World Changers said in a statement. “Many of our founding fathers were taught to read using the Bible.

If it had no educational value, then many of them would have been illiterate. The distribution of religious literature in a forum opened for secular literature is constitutionally protected.”

The lawsuit seeks to have the school district’s actions declared unconstitutional and requests legal fees and unspecified nominal damages.


Actors attack British girls' school that wanted homosexual scenes cut

Staff at a private all-girls' school asked a theatre company to cut scenes depicting homosexuality from its shows. St Margaret's School, a £10,000-a-year school in Hampstead, north London, made the request after asking the Black Cat Theatre Company to visit and put on performances as part of a sex education programme for 12- to 15-year-olds.

The first performance, on how drugs and alcohol could lead to a greater risk of being sexually attacked, culminated in one boy sexually assaulting another. During a break between shows actors were then asked to omit further references to homosexuality during the visit last month.

Barry Lillie, of Black Cat, told the Times Educational Supplement: "If you are going to broaden children's minds about sex you have got to talk to them about all different types of sex. It is no less important in a girls' school. There are girls that are gay as well as boys." Actors also described the request as "morally reprehensible".

However, Mark Webster, the head teacher of St Margaret's, said staff were merely being "cautious" because they were worried about what the actors might have planned for the remaining performances. He added: "Gay relationships and sex education are part of our school's personal, social and health education programme."

Mr Webster noted that the only homosexual character in the theatre company's storyline "was a rapist", which he said was a negative portrayal. Mr Lillie responded: "We are talking about how rape is about power and control."


Incompetent British teachers not fired

New concerns have been raised over the problem of incompetent teachers in British schools as official figures showed that hardly any have been dismissed. In the decade since the General Teaching Council (GTC) was created with the power to strike off those found to be incompetent, only 18 have been banned from the classroom. The figure contrasts with the estimate, made by Chris Woodhead when he was the head of Ofsted, that there are 15,000 incompetent teachers in service.

Under current rules, head teachers of state schools can identify underperforming teachers to their local authority. The individuals have their classroom competence reviewed, and they are advised on how they can improve their teaching. In cases where serious failings are identified, the teachers can be struck off by the General Teaching Council (GTC).

However, the investigation also found that as few as 300 teachers a year are entered into the first stage of this process, the competence review – equivalent to 0.07 per cent of Britain's 500,000 teachers.

Procedures vary widely between different council areas.

The programme raises concerns from anonymous head teachers who say they are aware of underperforming staff but feel unable to tackle the problem and fear it would bring unwanted attention on their school.

One of those 18 teachers, David Dobbie, who was struck off last year, was found during the investigation to be working as a classroom technician at Gedling School in Nottinghamshire where he had been given temporary employment through an agency. Anyone struck off may still work in schools in a "non-teaching role" according to GTC rules. They are also free to teach in private schools.

Michael Gove, the new education secretary, announced the abolition of the GTC last month, telling parliament that he wanted to "trust professionals" and give heads more power to improve the quality of teaching.

In a statement, the GTC said it did take action to prevent prohibited teachers from teaching and said it was concerned about "patchy" referrals by head teachers. It also admitted that it did not "seem credible" that the number of incompetent teachers was as low as the number actually struck off, but added: "We do believe that the incidence of true incompetence is low."

The Policy Exchange think-tank concluded in 2008 that it was likely that poor teachers are being 'recycled' around the system.

Susan Woodward, head teacher at Gedling School, said: "Mr Dobbie was working at the school on a part-time, temporary basis until a permanent appointment was made and was informed when he was no longer needed at the school."


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