KATY, Texas — A Texas teen says that her teacher told students this week that they must deny God in their reading class or fail the assignment.
Jordan Wooley, a seventh grade student at West Memorial Junior High School in Katy, spoke before the school board Monday night to tell her story.
“Today I was given an assignment in school that questioned my faith and told me that God was not real,” she said. “Our teacher had started off saying that the assignment had been giving problems all day. We were asked to take a poll to say whether God is fact, opinion or a myth and she told anyone who said fact or opinion was wrong and God was only a myth.”
The assignment provided several statements about various subjects, and asked students to classify them as either a factual claim, a commonplace assertion or an opinion. The statement at issue simply said, “There is a God.”
Wooley said that a number of students objected to her teacher’s assertions that God was a myth, but the teacher would not have it.
“She started telling kids they were completely wrong and that when kids argued we were told we would get in trouble,” she stated. “When I tried to argue [in favor of God’s existence], she told me to prove it.”
Wooley explained that one of her friends, who went home crying, wrote on her paper that God was fact, but her answer was marked as being incorrect.
“She turned in her paper, and she had still put that God was a fact and to be true, and my teacher crossed the answer out several times to tell her it was completely wrong,” she said.
“Another child in my class asked the teacher if we could try to put what we believe in the paper, and she said you can if you want to get the problem wrong … [but] you’ll fail the paper if you do,” Wooley told the board.
She explained that she believed how the teacher handled the matter was wrong.
“I had known before that our schools aren’t really supposed to teach us much about religion or question anything about religion,” Wooley said. “When I asked my teacher about it she said it doesn’t have anything to do with religion because the problem was just saying there is no God.”
The Katy Independent School District has now released a statement about the matter, advising that two students had contacted the principal about the matter, resulting in an investigation.
“At the conclusion of the investigation today, the principal determined that the classroom activity included an item that was unnecessary for achieving the instructional standard,” it stated. “The activity, which was intended to encourage critical thinking skills and dialogue by engaging students in an exercise wherein they identified statements as fact, opinion, or common assertion was not intended to question or challenge any student’s religious beliefs…”
The district remarked that the teacher herself is a Christian, and that the assignment has been misunderstood. However, it advised that the lesson has been scrapped and noted that action will be taken in the matter.
“The teacher is distraught by this incident, as some commentary has gone as far as to vilify her without knowing her, her Christian faith, or the context of the classroom activity,” it wrote. “Still, this does not excuse the fact that this ungraded activity was ill-conceived and because of that, its intent had been misconstrued. As a result, the activity will no longer be used by the school, and appropriate personnel action will be taken.”
“The school regrets any misconceptions that may have resulted from this teacher-developed classroom activity and assures its school community that the religious beliefs of all students and staff are welcomed and valued at Memorial Junior High,” the district said.