Ayvaunn Penn, All Christian News
On the classroom wall of high school teacher Joelle Silver is a quote from the beloved President Ronald Reagan. The quote reads, “Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience…Without God there is a coarsening of the society. Without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure…If ever we forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” Because the quote mentions God and has the essence of Christianity, the superintendent of New York’s Cheektowaga Central School District is ordering that Silver remove that poster along with other Christian affiliations from her classroom or be fired.
The mandate letter signed by the district superintendent also requires that Silver not mention anything of God or Christianity to her students. The letter reads, “Except for wearing religious jewelry, such as a cross, I am also directing you to refrain from all other forms of communication with students during the school day (whether verbal, email, texting, written, etc.) that would conflict with your duty to show complete neutrality toward religion and to refrain from promoting religion or entangling yourself in religious matters.”
Despite the fact that Silver is the faculty adviser for the student Bible Study Club, she is also instructed to remove additional scriptural posters and the club’s prayer box. Concerning this, the letter reads, “Consequently, if you choose to continue monitoring the Bible Study Club next school year, you must carefully re-examine [district policies], so that you can better protect that club from being disciplined and possibly banned. Under no circumstances should you participate in the club’s meetings or activities. Likewise, under no circumstances should you permit any club activities that could be interpreted as being promoted or sponsored by yourself, or the larger district for which you work.”
The mandates of the letter even extend into what most would consider a teacher’s privacy. Silver kept sticky notes of Bible verses in her desk for her own personal use. On these matters, the superintendent says, “If you need to be able to occasionally glance at inspirational Bible verses between classes during the course of the day, I suggest that you keep such material in a discreet folder that only you will have access to. You may keep such a folder in a drawer of your desk, so long as you take precautions not to share it or disclose its content to your students or their parents or guardians.”
Feeling that the orders set forth by the district superintendent are uncalled for, Silver has filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the mandates and defend her rights.
The founder of Your Black Poets, Ayvaunn Penn is an award-winning writer pursuing her graduate degrees in dramatic writing and acting. Click to follow her on Facebook and Twitter. To have Ayvaunn Penn feature your original poetry on Your Black Poets, click here.