Precinct 333

Friday, December 24, 2004

Sadly, The School Board Is Right

I hate agreeing with the School Board in this case, but they made the right choice. Robert Ziegler may be a great guy with a heart of gold and a soul as pure as the new-fallen snow, but his actions cross several lines. His job was to teach, not to preach, and if he cannot conduct himself in an appropriate manner he dose not belong in a public school classroom.
The Papillion-La Vista school board voted 6-0 to terminate the math teacher's contract on grounds of insubordination and unprofessional conduct.

Board President Valerie Fisher said the evidence was clear.

Rick Black, an assistant superintendent for the Papillion-La Vista schools, and two other administrators said Ziegler repeatedly had talked about his personal religious beliefs in class, triggering complaints from students and a parent.

The administrators said Ziegler would not stop, even after his bosses told him it could cost him his job.

Ziegler said he would not challenge the decision in court. He did not have a lawyer, and he called no witnesses.

At the nearly three-hour hearing, he told board members that his case was their opportunity to "make a stand for God."

"You're either for Him or against Him," he said.

No, Bob, one may be adamantly for God and adamantly for the requirement that a math teacher teach math and not religion in his classroom. I know you are concerned about the issues and problems your kids face. I am as well, as I see and here things on my 2500 student campus each day. I laugh with kids and I weep with them. I even try to offer a little bit of spiritual comfort. But I don't turn my history class into a "Come To Jesus" meeting, though I hope and pray each of my students does "come to Jesus".

Like this, Bob -- this is an example of crossing the line.
Jerry Kalina, an assistant principal at the high school, testified that a co-teacher from Ziegler's classroom first reported Oct. 4 that Ziegler was talking to students in class about his religious beliefs.

Ziegler was told to stop, but the co-teacher reported on Nov. 1 that Ziegler was doing it again, Kalina said.

A few days later, a student came to Kalina's office and said that Ziegler was talking about his faith and that it upset her, Kalina said. The student said Ziegler had stopped her in the hall and asked if he could pray for her. She told him that she felt uncomfortable while he prayed.

The girl's mother complained on Nov. 8 that she expected her daughter to learn math, not religion, in the class, Kalina said.

Kalina said he again told Ziegler to stop.

He said Ziegler was encouraged to talk to his minister and to contact Ron Brown, former University of Nebraska football receivers coach, to get advice on how to juggle his beliefs and his teaching duties.

On Nov. 16, a student again raised the issue of Ziegler's speaking about religion in class, Kalina said. The student said Ziegler wrote on the board, "What inspires you to love people?" and another time, "If you were to die today, what would you put on your tombstone, and why?"

The next day, a teacher reported that a student was not doing well in algebra because she felt uncomfortable asking Ziegler for help, Kalina said.

You've clearly shown you cannot do the job you were hired to do, and you are driving people away. I would have suspended you and instituted termination proceedings at least two weeks before your principal did.


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