The Carnival of Education: Week 95 at A History Teacher, which includes an incredible Education Wonks’ post about an art student expelled for questioning a classmate’s belief in the existence of leprechauns. Bob Averill, an atheist, was a student at the Art Institute of Portland.
In the classroom that day, Averill says one young woman was talking about her belief in energy layers and astral beings.
“I jokingly asked her if she believed in leprechauns. It turns out, she does. They live on another energy layer,” Averill wrote in notes to himself later that day. “In the interest of bringing my own view to the discussion, I began to ask her how she knew these things. Again I know all too well that people can be sensitive about their spiritual beliefs, so I was pretty much walking on glass as I did so.”
Averill says he wasn’t trying to disprove the other student’s religious beliefs, but “to convince her not to insist that they were scientifically proven.”
The other student complained to the teacher. Averill was suspended; he says he was told it was for discussing religion in school. When he tried to get an associate dean to listen to another student who’d witnessed the conversation, he was accused of “rude and belligerent behavior. After a hearing, he was expelled.
According to an emailed letter from (Dean of Student Affairs Ron) Engeldinger, Averill had violated the student conduct policy. The decision to dismiss Averill was “not the result of a single action on your part, but a series of actions. I believe that, in several instances, your actions have been aggressive, demeaning, and threatening and that this demonstrates a pattern of inappropriate and unacceptable behavior,” Engeldinger wrote.
Averill was offered readmission if he agreed to a psychiatric evaluation. He’s contacted the ACLU.
The Art Institute president says there is no policy against discussing religion.