Government Rules School District Violated Law in Firing Teacher Who Gave Student Bible

TutkaPHILLIPSBURG, N.J. — The Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that a New Jersey school district violated the rights of a substitute teacher when it fired the man for giving a middle school student his Bible during the lunch period.

As previously reported, Tutka, a longtime substitute teacher for the Phillipsburg School District, was placed under possible disciplinary action in 2012 after it was discovered that he had given his personal copy of the Bible to a student at Phillipsburg Middle School.

Tutka states that one day in October 2012, while the students he was overseeing lined up at the door to be dismissed for lunch, he commented to the last student in line, “Remember, the last shall be first.” He explained that over the next few weeks, the student asked several times where the saying came from, and approximately the seventh time, Tutka pulled out his personal Bible and gave it to the student as a gift.

However, upon learning of the incident, the Phillipsburg School Board claimed that Tutka violated school policy. The matter was discussed during a board meeting in November 2012, where a number of area residents showed up to support the substitute teacher.

Tutka acknowledged to reporters weeks later, however, that he had received a concerning letter from Superintendent George Chando, which outlined his recommendation that Tutka face a 90-day suspension beginning in January. The letter explained that the suspension was warranted as Tutka violated two school policies: one, that he not distribute any religious literature on school property, and two, the requirement that he “be neutral in [his] approach and avoid using [discussions about religion] to advance or inhibit religion in any way.”

Tutka’s name was also removed from the substitute teacher’s list because of the incident.

In January 2013, the board again addressed the matter during its monthly meeting and decided to go much further than the 90-day suspension — it fired Tutka.

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Later that year, Tutka filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC, but the Commission dismissed the grievance over what it called a lack of evidence. According to attorneys with the Texas-based Liberty Institute, while Tutka had until May 15th to provide evidence, which he submitted on May 14th, he later received a letter from the EEOC dated May 10th dismissing his claim over a lack of information.

Therefore, the Liberty Institute requested a reconsideration of the matter as the former substitute teacher asserted that the decision was unfair. Tutka was granted his request.

The EEOC has now issued its final determination, finding that the Phillipsburg School District indeed acted inappropriately in firing Tutka, and conversely determining that it was instead the school district who failed to provide sufficient evidence to support its actions.

“Evidence of record … confirms that the nexus behind respondent’s scheduled meeting was the distribution of religious material and planned disciplinary action following a failed attempt to terminate the charging party upon recommendation to the school board,” it wrote.

“Given these circumstances and absent adequate documentation to support its defense, the Commission must conclude that more credibility should be assigned to the charging party’s contention that religion and retaliation played a factor in his termination rather than respondent’s proffered defense that legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons were used,” the government entity continued. “[T]here is reasonable cause to believe that respondent has discriminated against [the] charging party on the basis of religion and retaliation.”

The EEOC then ordered that the two parties move into the conciliation and resolution phase.

“This is a great indication that the EEOC is taking religious liberty seriously and that they are going to enforce the law, and in this case make sure Walt’s rights are protected,” the Liberty Institute’s Hiram Sasser told conservative reporter Todd Starnes. “This sends a message to school districts that their natural allergic reaction to religion is misplaced, and not only is it wrong, but it’s also an egregious violation of the law.”

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  • Neiman

    In the Northwest Ordinance, that document penned by Thomas Jefferson, no Christian he, that document which is the guide for new territories becoming states, it says, “The ordinance of Congress called for a public university as part of the settlement and eventual statehood of the Ohio Territory, further stipulating “Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

    Our national government encouraged religion and thus the Christian Bible in our schools, the only religious document in general use, was to be taught in our public schools as they felt it necessary for teaching morality and good government. It was terribly common for the Christian Bible to be taught in all of our public schools and universities in those days; so, wherein did it suddenly become a violation of Church and State to disallow its use? It was only in 1947 when Justice Hugo Black created the false doctrine of “separation of church and state” out of whole cloth; yet, it was never prohibited from the Pilgrims through roughly 175 years of our history as a nation, while now the very presence of the Bible or mention of Jesus has become a crime.

    • John Munro

      they push Islam and evolution but that’s ok?

      • Fundisi

        Yes, of course, it is the Christian faith they want to silence and evolution-atheism is the state religion.

  • James Grimes

    Let’s see if the school board is going to man up and pay Mr. Tutka FOR THE Time He Had missed.

  • Truthhurts24

    John 16:2
    They shall put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time will come that whosoever kill you will think that he does God service

  • The Last Trump

    Fired him! For handing a student A BOOK! AT SCHOOL! And the book was THE BIBLE! Yeah, that makes perfect sense…..yikes! You’d have thought he was handing out crack cocaine!
    This irrational Bible banning campaign, in institutions of HIGHER LEARNING no less!? (imagine, banning BOOKS… in SCHOOLS!!), is a clear reminder that there is a real Devil. The fact that a depraved and immoral society is desperately attempting to restrict our access to God’s Word, makes me cherish it all the more. You know you truly have something important when everyone’s trying to take it from you.

    • John Munro

      well there is a Homo muslim USRPER who is a pathetic leader who is the reason for the attack on Jesus.

  • John Munro

    but if it were a Koran they would have been given millions..

  • John Munro

    scary stuff 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

  • CarolinaSistah

    As a former diversity administrator, the real story behind this is the continued ineffectiveness of the EEOC in protecting the freedoms of workers. Had it not been for the Liberty Institute, this man would have had to either fork out thousands of his own money to hire an attorney or lose! I am an advocate of saving the taxpayers money and doing away with the EEOC altogether. I’m glad this man won!

  • LittleMouse

    Now that’s just ridiculous, you can’t fire experienced teacher for something like that. I mean, certainly, they come up with silly rules today, but this went too far. At the same time, in some states they let child abusers teach at school. My son’s professor, intelligent man of high culture, helped students with writing chronological custom essays and taught them material they couldn’t understand after classes. Guess what, officials blamed him for violating school rules. Being a teacher is so difficult today, especially when you actually care for your students.