KATY, Texas — Following an investigation over student complaints, a school district in Texas is partially backing a reading teacher whose controversial assignment asked students to mark the existence of God as only a “commonplace assertion,” rather than a fact.
As previously reported, Jordan Wooley, a seventh grade student at West Memorial Junior High School in Katy, told her school board last Monday that the assignment forced students to essentially state that there is no proof that God is real.
“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.”
Students were told that the correct answer is “commonplace assertion,” which is a “statement many people assume to be true but which may or may not be true.”
“When I tried to argue [in favor of God’s existence], she told me to prove it,” Wooley said.
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.
The Katy Independent School District investigated the matter, and soon released a statement declaring that the particular statement at issue was “unnecessary for achieving the instructional standard.” However, it asserted that the teacher herself is a Christian, and that the assignment has been misunderstood.
“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.”
On Wednesday, Superintendent Alton Frailey held a press conference, during which time he repeated the district’s findings that the statement was unnecessary to the lesson and praised Wooley’s courage, but in part defended the teacher.
“I believe the response [from the teacher] was, ‘Prove your point. Well, I think this. Well, you think that,’” he said, stating that the discussion was about how people have different beliefs about the existence of God. “It was not a hostile thing, I don’t believe.”
“Nothing that the principal has found supports the assertions that the teacher deliberately threatened [students], or tried to force them to deny God,” Frailey stated. “In the investigation those assertions were not corroborated by the other students. Was the activity graded? It was not graded. Was it 40 percent of their grade? Were the students told they had to deny God? No one corroborated that at all.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says that he supports Wooley and has invited her to the governor’s mansion.
“I’m proud of this 7th grader’s unyielding commitment to God. She’s Texas tough. #IStandWithJordan,” he Tweeted on Tuesday.
“Jordan’s faith is continually being tested. She feels like she’s being made to be a liar when all that she did was tell the truth,” Wooley’s mother Chantal wrote on Facebook Thursday. “She was harassed at school, she was flipped off in the hallway, she was cursed at and blamed for this situation that her teacher and administration has created.
But, Wooley said, “She has chosen to forgive them and pray for them.”