Unprofessionalism in District 204
 
Unprofessionalism in District 204
Written By Laurie Higgins   |   08.17.09

Last week, I wrote an article forewarning IFI readers to avoid the “Bean” in Millennium Park on Saturday, August 15 at 1:00 p.m. because the “Great Nationwide Homosexual Kiss-In” was going to take place there. I never suggested banning the event. I simply warned those families who believe that homosexual activity is perverse to avoid this location.

But even that warning drew the ire of some homosexual bloggers and their supporters. On some blogs, commenters wrote that children should be exposed to homosexual kissing–not merely that if exposure were to happen, it would prove harmless–but rather that children should be exposed to homosexual kissing. We’ve come a long way, baby, from the days during which the homosexual community dishonestly claimed that all they wanted was tolerance. No longer is tolerance their goal. Coercive universal affirmation of homosexual acts is their subversive and pernicious goal. And compulsory exposure of children to subversive and pernicious ideas and images is one of their many means to achieve that end.

One of the bloggers who was peeved that I would have the audacity to warn IFI parents about the great homosexual kiss-in was Hemant Mehta, whose blog is called “The Friendly Atheist”. He’s also a math teacher in District 204’s Neuqua Valley High School.

Judging from his blog, Mehta’s mission in life is to spread the gospel of atheism to students across the country, making disciples of all men and women. Judging from his blog, he also seeks to spread the message that homosexuality is morally equivalent to heterosexuality.

Of course, teachers have a First Amendment right to blog or speak publicly about anything they want. And parents have every right not to have their children in the classroom under the tutelage of someone whose publicly articulated views they find fallacious and deeply troubling. Having a First Amendment right to speak freely does not guarantee public approval or public silence. And the public response may be that parents choose not to have their children in the class of those who espouse views that parents find foolish and destructive.

Parents have a justifiable concern that the personal views of teachers may find their way into the classroom, either through curricular choices or classroom commentary. Those parents who want nothing more than that their children will believe in God may find someone whose mission in life is to persuade young people to reject a belief in God to be a poor role model.

A generation or two ago, a teacher’s personal beliefs on philosophical, theological, political, and moral issues would have been irrelevant because students wouldn’t know what they were. But many teachers today, particularly our emboldened, hubristic liberal activists, make sure that their students are familiar with their beliefs. These teachers view themselves as “agents of change” and their students as clay to be fashioned in their own ideological image. In a day when many school administrations do nothing to prohibit activists from espousing their beliefs on social, political, and moral issues in the classroom, parents should make every effort to place their children in the classes of teachers who respect the rights of parents and the ethical limits of their jobs.

But even if Mr. Mehta does not view his math classes as opportunities to proselytize, there still remains the fact that he is a role model and he regularly engages in very public discourse on very controversial topics. For many parents, views on homosexuality and belief in God are two of life’s most important issues–issues that are critical to both civilized and eternal life.

Unfortunately, from middle school through college, many students are more influenced by emotion and personality than by rigorous analysis of arguments. Adolescence is also a time of rebellion which is why many teens are attracted to rebellious, anti-establishment people and ideas. Students–and often even adults–are unduly influenced by characteristics wholly disconnected from reason. Students are often unduly influenced by teachers who they find hip or funny or kind or charismatic or good-looking or anti-authority or anti-tradition or anti-establishment, which is why role models are so critical during children’s formative years.

If students especially like a particular teacher, they are likely to be predisposed to look favorably at this teacher’s views on a whole host of issues unrelated to the subject the teacher was hired to teach. And students will have no trouble finding out what Mr. Mehta’s views on a number of controversial issues are because Mr. Mehta is quite public and voluble with them.

Many parents would recoil at having their children spend a school year under the tutelage of a teacher–particularly a charismatic teacher–who in his or her free time blogs favorably about racism and travels the length and breadth of the country preaching racism. Similarly, some parents may recoil at having their children spend a year under the tutelage of a teacher who spends his free time blogging favorably about atheism and homosexuality and traveling the length and breadth of the country preaching favorably about atheism.

But Mr. Mehta doesn’t merely expatiate philosophically, he gets personal too.

Last week, Mr. Mehta made an unfriendly comment on his Friendly Atheist blog that I found troubling enough that I shared it with some of the District 204’s administrators and the members of the school board–something I have not done on the other occasions he has written about me.

He wrote the following in response to my IFI article about the homosexual kiss-in: “The only thing that could make this kiss-in even better is if it took place just outside Higgins’ house.”

In my email, I expressed my disappointment that a role model for students would make such a vindictive, irresponsible, and unprofessional public statement. My hope was that someone in the administration would have a conversation with Mr. Mehta regarding his influential role in students’ lives and his inappropriate comment. Making District 204 leaders aware of Mr. Mehta’s comment was all I intended to do regarding this issue, that is, until I received an angry email from attorney and school board member, Mark Metzger. His email contained the following not-so-veiled threat of a lawsuit: “Have you considered the possibility that if your actions caused Mr. Mehta to suffer consequences in his employment, you’d be subjecting yourself and/or your organization to liability? That’s potentially unwise to your organization’s self-sufficiency, surviival (sic) and mission.”

In addition, he suggested I was setting “a poor example for families,” which was perplexing to me in that my email correspondence was sent only to thirteen District 204 officials as compared to Mr. Mehta’s blog comments which are available to almost everyone in the world. Moreover, my fervent hope is that more parents will become involved in public school issues, including asserting their rights regarding the teachers under whose tutelage they place their children.

I also found Mr. Metzger’s concern about setting a bad example ironic in light of his recent action as District 204 school board president. Some may remember that he was embroiled in a controversy last spring that led to his decision to step down from his position as school board president.

Last year in Naperville, an eleven-year-old boy was sexually assaulted by two classmates. Following the assault, the father of the victim asked that the perpetrators be moved to other schools in the district so that his son would not have to encounter them during his school day. The district initially balked at this request. During the heated public debate on the issue, Mr. Metzger composed another angry email which he intended to send to just the school board but accidentally sent also to the father of the victim. In it Mr. Metzger referred to the father by an extremely vulgar obscenity, one that was so offensive no newspaper would provide even an elided reference to it. Metzger wrote, “I think it’s about time for me to issue a response and blow up the lies this (expletive) continues to tell.”

District 204 community members, particularly students, deserve public servants and role models who demonstrate more wisdom, self-restraint, and respect for people than do Mr. Mehta and Mr. Metzger.


Laurie Higgins
Laurie Higgins became the Illinois Family Institute’s Cultural Affairs Writer in the fall of 2008. Prior to working for the IFI, Laurie worked full-time for eight years in Deerfield High...
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