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01 October 2011

Repudiation: Liberty Counsel v. German Teacher

The Liberty Counsel is associated with the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and is headed by the Dean of the LU law school, Matt Staver.  This week they went after a teacher in the Fort Worth area to test the school district's anti-bullying policy.  The following is my response to the news release from Liberty Counsel:

Last week, high school freshman Dakota Ary was given in-school suspension for telling another student that he believes homosexuality is wrong because of his Christian faith. Western Hills High School teacher, Kristopher Franks, is responsible for his suspension and has now been placed on administrative leave with pay. Liberty Counsel is representing Dakota in this case, demanding full vindication and a full retraction of the suspension.

This makes no sense from the start.  If the only thing that happened in the classroom was a single statement, it would have been handled in-class.  There is more to this story than Liberty Counsel is telling.

Dakota was in Franks’ German language class on Tuesday when the topic of homosexuality arose. Dakota said to one of his classmates, “I'm a Christian and, to me, being homosexual is wrong.” Franks overheard the comment, wrote Dakota an infraction, and sent him to the principal’s office. The class topic was religious beliefs in Germany. During the discussion, one student asked what Germans thought about homosexuality in relation to religion. Another student then asked to hear some translated terms such as “lesbian.” These questions provoked the conversation about Christianity and Dakota’s expression of his opinion to one classmate.

Again, this does not make sense.  If the comment caused a disruption of the class, then the student should be sent out.  A suspension is not warranted if this is a brief outburst requiring the intercession of the Principal.  Most likely, this is not the first time that Mr. Ary has brought up homosexuality and his faith.  An article posted on the Dallas Voice indicates that this was just one of many times and many anti-gay comments.

The discipline referral form says the comment was out of context, even though the lesson for the day was on religious beliefs. Franks charged Dakota with “possible bullying” and indicated, “It is wrong to make such a statement in public school.” Two weeks prior to this event, Franks displayed a picture of two men kissing on a “World Wall” and told his students that homosexuality is becoming more prevalent in the world and that they should just accept it. Many of the students were offended by the Franks’ actions and his continually bringing up the topic of homosexuality in a German language class.

Apparently the Liberty Counsel either did not inquire as to Mr. Franks' opinions, just believing Mr. Ary, or they are deliberately telling only one side of the story.  Mr. Franks says that the comment was not a single incident.  The same Dallas Voice article gives context to the picture, one of many pictures on a board depicting different aspects of German culture.

After Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to the school and then met with school officials, the school district reversed the in-school suspension and placed Franks on administrative leave with pay.

Two days prior to the Liberty Counsel news release, Mr. Franks was cleared and removed from administrative leave and returned to the classroom at the end of the week.  Apparently Liberty Counsel did not get the memo.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, commented: “We are pleased with the school’s response thus far. The teacher clearly crossed the line and should apologize publically to Dakota. It is intolerable for the teacher to ridicule the religious beliefs of students in front of class. This teacher should not force his views about homosexuality upon students. Teachers cannot use their position to bully students and humiliate them in front of their peers.”

No, the student crossed the line, not the teacher.  The public apology is due from Mr. Staver who has endeavored to make this a big deal in public.  This sort of thing should have been between the Principal, the parents, the teacher, and the student.  The only person forcing his views appears to have been the student.  Mr. Staver is simply wrong.