Belatedly, the San Jose Mercury News has a front-page story on the Cupertino elementary teacher told not to assign historical documents that mention God in his colonial history class. Steve Williams’ lawyer said he was told by the principal of Stevens Creek Elementary not to use readings from “The Rights of the Colonists” by Samuel Adams, “Frame of Government of Pennsylvania” by William Penn and parts of George Washington’s “Prayer Journal.”
“She told him, `Even though we don’t think you’re proselytizing, we don’t think you can be trusted teaching these materials because you’re an evangelical Christian,” (attorney Jordan) Lorence said.
A district spokesman says no documents are banned, but hasn’t given an alternative version of what happened.
Lorence said he believes the district was responding to a single parent’s complaint. Williams, he said, has been teaching colonial history with the same materials for seven years without incident. Last year, a parent complained when Williams brought religious-based materials to elaborate on a class discussion about the inclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. After that, all of Williams’ teaching materials came under scrutiny by Vidmar, the lawyer said.
Several parents told reporters they’d been concerned by Williams’ Christian beliefs spilling over into the classroom.
“Mr. Williams discusses his Christianity in the classroom,” said Dorothy Pickler, who has two children at Stevens Creek. “He slants lessons in that direction. Parents have complained.”
Armineh Noravian, whose son had Williams last year, said that the teacher wore a Jesus ring, a cross near the collar of his shirt and talked to his students often about his Bible study classes.
Noravian said that when Williams sent his students home with a proclamation for national prayer day from President Bush, she and other parents complained to the principal.
It’s possible Williams has crossed the line and promoted his own religion in the classroom, but most of these complaints sound awfully petty.
Christians of any sort may be a minority at Stevens Creek Elementary, which has a lot of students from Chinese and Indian families plus some Jewish students.