Texas student says assignment questioned religious beliefs

AP News
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Posted: Oct 28, 2015 9:02 PM

KATY, Texas (AP) — A suburban Houston junior high school student and her family have complained about an assignment that they say questioned students' religious beliefs.

Officials for the Katy Independent School District apologized for the writing assignment Wednesday, but said they could not confirm allegations the teacher told students to deny the existence of God.

The student "truly felt her faith was being questioned and she felt justified in defending it and I support that," Superintendent Alton L. Frailey said at a news conference. "However, the assertion that the teacher deliberately tried to force her to deny her God or threatened her God, that was not corroborated."

He said the assignment was a mistake, highly inappropriate and would not be used again.

The assignment asked students to say whether something was factual, a commonplace assertion or an opinion. The district said in a statement that it was intended to encourage critical thinking skills, not question any student's religious beliefs.

But 12-year-old Jordan Wooley said the teacher told students that God is a myth.

"I felt like this was really wrong and I didn't feel like it was fair for my faith and my religion to have anything to do with what I'm learning about in school," the West Memorial Junior High seventh-grader told the Katy school board Monday during its monthly meeting.

Wooley said the teacher told anyone who said God was a fact or an opinion "was wrong and that God is only a myth. She started ... telling kids that they were completely wrong and when kids would argue, she would (tell) them we would get in trouble."

Wooley told the board that one of her friends went home and cried because of the assignment.

District officials interviewed several students besides Wooley but could not confirm her claims that the teacher was trying to force students to deny the existence of God, Frailey said.

The district said in its statement that the teacher did not use the word "myth" to describe God and that the instructor "welcomed all students' views."

The teacher's name has not been released. The district said "appropriate personnel action will be taken" but did not elaborate.

"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," the district said. "Still, this does not excuse the fact that this ungraded activity was ill-conceived and because of that, its intent had been misconstrued."