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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Unpleasant Work Environment

Interesting story in today's NY Post:
A Jewish art teacher claims her principal's Christian prayer groups and the staff's anti-Semitic slurs turned her job at a Brooklyn public school into a living hell - and now she's fighting back with a lawsuit.

... Eder said the problems began about six months into her new job. She said she was approached by one of the teachers and asked whether she wanted to join the "prayer circle" of six faculty members who huddled every morning with Principal Sheila Richards. She declined.

Then, during a staff meeting at the beginning of her second year, the principal invited the teachers out into the hallway to join in a group prayer.

"She asked Jesus Christ for guidance in the upcoming school year," Eder said. "I was the only one that didn't participate. I do fundamentally believe in the separation of church and state so you can have religious freedom."

The other teachers, however, were shocked that Eder bowed out of the prayer, she said.

Another prayer session detailed by Eder occurred in 2003, when, she said, English department staff asked students to bow their heads as they waited to start their Regents exams.

The Department of Education refused to comment on the allegations, but a 1964 Supreme Court decision prohibits faculty-led prayer in school.

Eder said her alienation from her Christian peers reached a peak during a staff-development seminar in 2004, when faculty members were instructed to divide into groups and discuss why Gandhi, King and Hitler were considered "revolutionary figures."

"Somebody said, 'Let the students draw their own conclusions about the Holocaust,' " she said. "I didn't realize the Holocaust was a revolution that made a positive change. I couldn't make them understand."

Eder also claimed that a picture card of Rebbe Moshiach, the Jewish prophet, was placed on her seat in the teacher's lounge to identify it as hers.
Irrelevant side point: Flatly calling the late Lubavitcher Rebbe the "Rebbe Moshiach" and the "Jewish Prophet" is an amusing editorial decision by the Post. I guess the paper has weighed in on whether they are Meshichists or not (or consulted with the wrong experts).

That aside, it sounds like an unpleasant work environment for this woman. Frankly, I'm shocked that this type of behavior would even be attempted in a public school - especially when laws governing faculty-led prayer so clearly prohibit it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NYC public school that I work at is not as blatant as the school you reference but there is a teacher prayer group in my school as well. This group is not attended by the principal (to my knowledge) but is obviously accepted by her. While no Jewish teachers feel alienated within the school culture by this, there have been repeated "invitations" to many Jewish (non-ortho and ortho) teachers to join this prayer group although it is clearly Christian in nature and antithetical to any church/state separation in the schools.

That stated, neither I nor my Jewsih colleagues have never felt any professional discomfort as a result of our disinterest in the prayer group.

10:12 AM  
Blogger yingerman said...

There is a public school where staff gets together at a predetermined hour to pray in a small room. The prayer is open to anyone of that particular faith, if they choose to join. Some attending members even cajol follow staff to attend. There is no fuss and none of the other faiths find it objectionable.
This school is in Brooklyn not far from Crown Heights and the prayer is referred to as 'mincha'.

You wrote
"Frankly, I'm shocked that this type of behavior would even be attempted in a public school - especially when laws governing faculty-led prayer so clearly prohibit it."

I do understand having it that having part of the regular class sessions, is wrong. But not shocking, as I'm sure the students are OK with it.
In schools where there was a large student body uncomfortable with such sessions the parent raise a ruckus, and its dropped.

I'm more offended by the rabbe moshiach thingy.

Can't stand the huge billboards with the Rebbe posted "get ready for the messiah"
Sound more like a bad movie.

11:24 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

I don't think either of the above examples of teacher prayer groups can compare to the case in the article - that of a principal arranging a prayer group during a staff meeting, or teachers encouraging students to pray in class.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a long-time public school teacher in Texas. I am also Jewish, and I'm definitely in the minority. Since I was raised in a small town with a large Christian population, I've always felt that I knew how to interact successfully with my many Christian friends and colleagues. When I first began teaching, the atmosphere was definitely more open when it came to religious diversity. These days, things are definitely more fraught--and unpleasant, at least for me. When Anne Frank comes up in our lit book, I know I'm in for it. The Holocaust has become controversial these days; I'm controversial, too.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somebody should call the Waaahmbulance

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am currently a public school teacher. While tolerance is part of official school policy, it is not so easy to get a teaching position if you wear a yarmulke. I interviewed for positions that I was qualified for and did not receive any of these positions. As a matter of fact, a person who was not state certified for the position got the position. Someone suggested that I not wear a yarmulke to the next interview. I was offered a position after that next interview. I do not think that this is a coincidence. It is very difficult for frum Jewish public school teachers to be open about their beliefs. There are schools that are more tolerant than others. It is a lot easier to wear a yarmulke in the NYC public schools than it is in the suburbs. It is a shame that this is what is experienced.

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two years ago I was called into my principal's office in early December. He asked me if I "squashed Xmas" for the kids... I'm still not sure what he meant. My philosophy has always been that I teach in a public school - I shouldn't have to even think about ANYTHING religious in relation to the curriculum. Guess I was wrong.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the allegations are true, then this is way out of line. This sounds like something you'd expect from the Bible Belt.

2:28 PM  
Anonymous viagra online said...

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