To the HJISD Community,
As my children’s first year at China Elementary comes to a close, I wanted to touch base with those who have expressed concern over our family’s secular values in hopes that the close of the year will also bring with it the close of the year’s worth of misunderstandings and ill feelings. I hope that you will read this letter with an open heart and an open mind.
The animosity in the community has been exacerbated to the point that I cannot attend a school event without fear of confrontation and/or essentially being treated like a leper. In order to create a healthy educational environment for the students of HJISD, it is imperative that these misunderstandings be corrected.
Earlier in the year, parents were informed that someone was attempting to “discontinue all HFC (Hawks For Christ) and FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) groups as well as any spiritual events held on the HJ campuses before and after school hours.”
In stark contrast, the FFRF’s (Freedom From Religion Foundation) letters stated, “Students, not faculty, must be in charge of organizing student-run club events…. Explain to (the coach) that he cannot be running the HJ FCA student clubs or organizing the Fields of Faith for them…. If the students want to form any religious club at China or Sour Lake Elementary, let them do it on their own terms within the guidelines set by the district.”
The fact is that the FFRF attorney asked to disband the Hawks For Christ at the elementary because it was not organized (created) by students, not just because it was a religious club. He then suggested letting students start their own religious club appropriately. No one mentioned disbanding older HFC groups, the FCA, or stopping ANY of the religious events or activities as parents and students were told. The ONLY thing complained about was inappropriate leadership, nothing more. The inaccuracy of these claims and the gravity of their impact cannot be over stated.
As for the Christian books being pulled from the book fair, neither myself, nor the FFRF said a word about that. If I had, I’d have asked that the books be displayed objectively, as the law requires, not removed all together. I don’t condone censorship; rather, I promote diversity with objectivity.
The students rights to organize religious clubs and events on campuses are protected under the law. They can pray wherever they like, wear religious apparel, carry their Bibles, talk about their beliefs, or meet at the pole every single morning if they wish. No one can take those rights away from them and no one is trying to do so aside from the few overly zealous adults who simply cannot let them organize/lead their own clubs and events themselves.
I am thrilled to see young people learn to exercise their freedoms, to learn leadership and organizational skills, to speak in front of and find encouragement among their peers. I was excited to see the Kountz cheerleaders gain such an incredibly educational and personal growth experience in fighting for their beliefs. It wasn’t well thought out, but I admire their courage and ambition nonetheless. I myself attended “See You At The Pole” and Hawks For Christ as a teenager and found encouragement from my then like-minded peers.
The letter goes on to admonish that students put on “armor” and proclaim, “you intended to harm me,” while they “take a stand.” The HJISD board policy states that school staff should “develop mutual respect” among students’ diverse beliefs, NOT teach them to spiritually/verbally arm themselves against each other. This mentality is extremely detrimental to campus morale and student welfare. Students should never be made to feel anxious or challenged for exercising
their religious rights, nor should they be taught to bully each other via a perceived war on their religion.
I have always believed that most Christians are not hateful, but exemplify Jesus’ true teachings on compassion and love. Because of this, I am absolutely astounded by the mass bullying that I and others have received as a result of this incident. I have never seen such anger and hatred. Fear, perpetrated by misinformation, causes otherwise good people to act out of character and against their own best interest; therefore, causing both religious and non-religious alike to associate Christianity with hate and to recoil from it entirely. Having spent the majority of my life as a Christian, one thing I learned is that Christ is most effectively shared by how we live and how we treat others, not by how loudly or publicly we pray.
Asking a teacher to obey the law is not persecution. I expect all persons in authority over my children, particularly the office of teaching, to uphold a certain level of morale which means obeying the law and dealing honestly. I also expect statements made to the community by those in positions of authority over my children to be truthful and accurate; although, gossip by such persons should not be carried at all.
As a previous educator myself, I believe we all ultimately have the same goal, that our childrens’ learning environment be one that fosters critical thinking, morality, and mutual respect. Contention is unavoidable when challenging popular ideals; however, for the sake of the students, I hope we can eventually learn to approach these issues rationally rather than emotionally. Faith is very powerful for those who have it, but not required of anyone.
A Concerned Parent