KATY, Texas – Katy Independent School District officials said Tuesday an assignment that required students to label God a myth was “ill-conceived,” but now they’re walking back the criticism.
West Memorial Junior High student Jordan Wooley, 12, testified before the school board Monday about an assignment in her reading class earlier in the day that required students to classify statements as opinion, fact or “commonplace assertion” – also known as a myth.
When Jordan and numerous other students answered “fact” to the statement “There is a God,” they were told they’re wrong and the correct answer is God is a myth.
“When I tried to argue, (the teacher) told me to prove it, and I tried to reference things like the Bible and stories I have read before from people who have died and went to heaven but came back and told their stories,” Jordan told school board members. “She told me both were just things people were doing to get attention.”
Wooley and her mother, Chantel Wooley, also recorded a video Monday in which Wooley describes the assignment and classroom discussion, and posted it to Facebook.
“I think that the teacher crossed a serious line when she led impressionable minds to write there was no God … that God wasn’t real,” Chantel Wooley told ABC 13. “I think that infringes on my child’s rights.”
“In New York, California, Vermont, the liberal states, I could totally see this as happening,” Chantel Wooley told Fox 26. “But in Houston, Texas, where it’s red, white, and blue, and stars all over, and God bless the USA, and ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’, you know, Texas is messing with my kid.”
Superintendent Alton Frailey would not allow Jordan to name the school or teacher involved in the issue during the recorded school board meeting, but district officials thanked Wooley for highlighting the problem and issued a statement the next day.
The statement claimed two parents contacted the West Memorial Junior High principal to complain about the assignment, and the principal conducted an investigation that “determined that the classroom activity included an item that was unnecessary for achieving the instructional standard,” but noted it “was not intended to question or challenge any student’s religious beliefs …,” according to the news site.
“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. 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 statement read.
Multiple news agencies published stories about the incident, and it quickly gained momentum online. Click2Houston reports its story garnered more than 1,400 “likes” and 691 “shares” overnight.
Yesterday, Frailey called a press conference in an attempt to defend the first-year teacher and allege Wooley lied about how the ordeal played out. The teacher, who has yet to be named by the district or media, has since placed herself on administrative leave, according to the news site.
“The superintendent definitely says the assignment never should have been given to students, and shouldn’t have even been inside the classroom. They did, in fact, question the student’s classmates and asked them if the teacher forced them to deny God, but they did not thoroughly investigate the discussion between Jordan and her teacher,” according to Click2Houston’s Courtney Gilmore.
“I believe the response was, prove your point,” Frailey said in the press conference, adding that the conversation was allegedly an “I think this, well you think that” discussion.
“It was not a hostile thing, I don’t believe,” Frailey said.
Then he basically called Wooley a liar.
“Nothing that the principal has found supports the assertions that the teacher deliberately threatened (students), or tried to force them to deny God,” he said.
“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,” Frailey said, according to ABC 13.
Frailey – current president of the national American Association of School Administrators – is reportedly on Gov. Greg Abbott’s short list of possible replacements for Education Commissioner Michael Williams, who resigned last week.
Abbott posted to Twitter yesterday that he’s “proud of this 7th grader’s unyielding commitment to God,” and invited the 12-year-old to the governor’s mansion.
“She’s Texas tough. #IStandWithJordan #tcot #PJNET,” Abbott tweeted.
Chantel Wooley posted an update to Facebook today about how her daughter is coping with the controversy.
“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. I’ve encouraged her to stand by her faith and remember that when Christ was persecuted he prayed for those persecuting him,” Chantel Wooley wrote.
“She’s deeply distraught that close friends have turned their back on her, as am I. People that can verify this happened exactly as she has said. She’s incredibly upset and doesn’t want to go to school because of the fallout. 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. She has chosen to forgive them and pray for them. I ask you all to pray for us as her character is being attacked.”
Here are Jordan’s original remarks:
Posted by Education Action Group on Tuesday, October 27, 2015