Teacher fired for being an Atheist

Posted: February 6, 2009 in Atheism, Crime, Education, News, Religion
Tags: , ,

deliverance_dueling_banjosCertain parts of the United States of America have a long standing reputation for being dens of ignorance and general stupidity mixed with a generous helping of inbreeding and intolerance.  Is this reputation deserved? I have no idea but stories like the following are certainly cause for huge concern.  The story concerns a teacher named Richard Mullens who, judging by comments left by students on various websites, seems to have been quite popular and respected.  He was accused by a parent of being ‘too liberal’ and ‘an atheist’ despite no evidence yet being available to support either accusation (and even if true, neither is anywhere near enough to fire a teacher).  The Principal met with some people such as the School Board and (apparently) the local church minister and Mullens was shown the door.

Various other blogs are following this story in some detail so I will not be redundant and attempt to do likewise.  Instead, I’ll lay out the bare bones and direct you, the good reader, to those blogs and websites and why you should look at them.

Democracy For America:

Includes a recap of the story including a letter from Mullens.  Also includes some comments from various parties including former students of Brookeland High School and testimonies of just how backwards education in Texas can be.

Confessions of a West Tennesee Liberal:

So far the best coverage of the story, including a lot of comments from Mullens past and current students.  It seems that the female student who made the original complaint against Mullens is far from trustworthy; instead being (apparently) something of a manipulator with a parental unit that is utterly blind to her mannerisms (willing or unwillingly is unknown).  It would seem that Mullens certain has a lot of support from the student base if nothing else.  The same blog now also has an update entry which bares reading as well.

Two sites with information, albeit it brief, on Brookeland High School (including contact details):

Great Schools and Local School Directory

For the sake of completeness, here is Mullens’ original letter/appeal/case:

I, Richard Mullens, have been a teacher in the state of Texas since 1971. I have never received a negative comment, complaint, or write-up during this period of time. On the contrary, I have received recognition for my teaching and the test scores of my students. No matter what district I’ve taught in, my students have always excelled in the state mandated tests. I currently teach in Brookeland, TX, a small rural district about 16 miles north of Jasper, TX. I’ve taught at Brookeland for the past 6 years. I’ve been in my current position as US history, government, and economics teacher for 3 years.

These past 2 years have been an exciting time for me as a history and government teacher. My classes have followed the primary and election campaigns. My senior class last year, with the aid of the superintendent Lana Comeaux, was able to travel to Beaumont, TX to see Bill Clinton make a stump speech on behalf of his wife Hillary Clinton. In class we followed the primary campaign using Newsweek magazine and Junior Scholastic magazine to keep us informed about the issues. We had passionate debates about the issues and the candidates. It was obvious to my class that I supported Barack Obama. I allowed all students to express their opinions, as long as they did not include racial slurs or non-factual information. On occasion, I had to correct misinformation that was expressed by students. For example, that Barack Obama was un-American, that he did not say the pledge, and that he was a terrorist. After Barack Obama’s election, I was looking forward to being able to share the inauguration with my students by letting them watch it on TV in my classroom. But instead, I found myself at home suspended from my job.

On November 7th, at a basketball game that was supposed to be our homecoming scrimmage, I sat at the scores table as a coach with Lana Comeaux, the superintendent. I was not allowed to coach because we would be in violation of UIL rules. Lana Comeaux at that time told me she was under pressure from the school board and they were looking for her to resign. She said that my name was also on the list of people that the board wanted to resign or fire. I asked why, and she said that a school board member had expressed to her that he believed I was an atheist and a liberal. She asked me if I was an atheist and I refused to answer the question. I said, “I won’t play this game. I didn’t know you had to take a religious test to be a teacher in the state of Texas.” Nothing was said after that point, although there was a lot of tension among the other coaches about whether they would be able to keep their jobs or not, because she also told them that many of them were on the list.

Then on January 7th, a student in my classroom in second period left my class, went to the Principal’s office, and told him that there was an inappropriate discussion in my classroom. I was informed by the principal, Richard Turner, that I needed to talk to her mother because she was very upset. Her mother came to class on January 7th, came to the school January 7th, very upset. She made some threats to me in the hallway. And then on January 8th, Mr. Turner informed me that I needed to call the parent, Mrs. Lowe. On January 9th, I had Vicki Smith, the school secretary, call “REDACTED” on my behalf to arrange a conference at 10:35 Monday, January 12th. Monday the 12th, I met with REDACTED and School Principal Richard Turner in his office. REDACTED was very angry. She accused me of being an atheist, saying I was too liberal, and that I allowed the students to talk about inappropriate things in the classroom. I told her that occasionally students would get on topics and say things, but I was unable to censor them before they were able to say them. She said that I called her daughter a name and I denied the accusation. But then she said that I didn’t believe in god and shouldn’t be teaching. She also said that she had spoken to 3 other board members who agreed with her that I shouldn’t be teaching because I was too liberal and I was an atheist.

On January 15th, there was a board meeting. Nothing was on the agenda concerning me. During the open forum, several audience members spoke to their concerns that I was an atheist and I was too liberal. On January 16th, I was called to Mr. Richard Turner’s office (my principal), and he informed me that I had been put on administrative leave with pay. The reasons, as stated to me by Mr. Turner at the time, were that I was accused of being an atheist and teaching atheism in the classroom, and I was too liberal. On January 23rd, Mr. Turner and members of the board met behind closed doors concerning my suspension and allegations that were directed at me. On January 24th, I received a certified letter from Mr. Turner that stated that the causes for my suspension apparently had been changed to inappropriate contact with students and comments. He admonished me in the letter for having contact with students who had text-messaged me during my first week of suspension, but I had not received any administrative directive, or anything in writing, prior to that time telling me I could not have contact with students. On January 26th, I called my lawyer REDACTED, with ATTE, and informed him of my situation that I was put on administrative leave with pay, pending an investigation.

I later had conversations with parents and a person who lives in the community, who informed me that the principal had met with the minister of the local church and had discussed my suspension with him. I also later received information from REDACTED,a “SCHOOL EMPLOYEE-POSITION REDACTED”, that the minister was now subbing at the school and that he had heard that he would be taking my position, or if I returned he would be co-teaching with me.

There have been a number of rumors in our community now concerning inappropriate behavior: high school girls coming to my class to supposedly smoke marijuana, all kinds of accusations made by the members of the missionary baptist church at which this minister is the preacher. In the January 24th letter from Mr. Richard Turner, my principal, I was also informed that my suspension had been extended indefinitely.

Sincerely,
Richard Mullens

This is certainly a case that will be worth watching very, very closely indeed.

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Comments
  1. Liz Ditz says:

    From the Beaumont Enterprise Brookeland ISD teacher resigns under pressure from school, parents
    By EMILY GUEVARA
    February, 5, 2009

    Brookeland ISD teacher resigns under pressure from school, parents
    By EMILY GUEVARA
    February, 5, 2009

    A Brookeland High School teacher said he is not sure what his next step will be after resigning from his job of six years.

    Richard Mullens, a teacher for more than 30 years, resigned his position as history teacher after being placed on paid administrative leave by the Brookeland Independent School District.

    Richard Turner, the high school’s principal, said parents had voiced concerns about Mullens’ classroom management.

    These parents told school board members at a January board meeting that Mullens ran his classes too loosely and allowed students to discuss inappropriate topics, Turner said by phone Thursday.

    Mullens said the district and parents singled him out because of his religious and political views, which are in the minority.

    “I teach in a very open classroom, (that) I love and like,” Mullens said by phone. “And the kids learn that way through open discussion and debate.”

    Brookeland ISD is located in the northeast corner of Jasper County. The district serves about 426 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, Turner said. Students, parents and school personnel mix frequently and everyone is very close, he said.

    The conflict appears to stem from a Jan. 7 incident in one of his classes. According to Mullens, a student left his class-room upset about a conversation that had taken place.

    He said that a pregnant student had gotten into a discussion with her former boyfriend about “whether he believed in love or not.”

    Another student, who was not involved in the conversation, got up and left the class, saying she was uncomfortable with the conversation.

    That student’s mother later came to the school, spoke to the principal about the situation and verbally threatened Mullens. In a subsequent conference with Mullens and the principal, the parent accused Mullens of calling her daughter names and being an atheist. She said that several board members wanted him ousted because he was too liberal and an atheist, he said.

    Since 2003, Mullens had been teaching history at the high school. This year he taught about 80 students a day from eighth-graders to seniors. Some classes were as small as five students, while others had almost 25, he said by phone.

    Mullens said he made a habit of keeping a very open classroom, allowing students to discuss controversial issues.

    “I like to get the kids interested,” he said. “I like to get all viewpoints.”

    Students would discuss issues like the separation of church and state and the presidential election, he said.

    Nicole Ard, a senior at the high school, has been a student of Mullens’ for five years. Ard, who is senior class president, said discussion often got heated, “but they were just debates.”

    “Mostly people were upset because he supported Barack Obama, whereas a lot of people in Brookeland were against (Obama),” said Ard, 18.

    She said Mullens would often play the devil’s advocate in discussions, but he never pushed his viewpoints on students.

    “I think it was more trying to get people to look at different viewpoints,” she said.

    Mullens said in his six years at the school, he has never received a complaint from a parent or administrator. Turner, who is in his second year as principal, said that Mullens file has no record of infractions.

    On Jan. 15, though, between four and six parents told the school board about concerns with Mullens, said Turner who was at the meeting. Mullens did not attend because his name was not on the agenda and his son had a Little Dribblers basketball game.

    Turner said the parents were concerned about Mullens’ classroom management, specifically “about how loosely the classroom operated and that students were allowed to voice opinions that should not have been in the classroom.”

    He said parents said students called each other names, talked about sex, and discussed personal problems in his class-room. The undercurrent was that Mullins did little to stop the conversation, Turner said. One parent also voiced concerns about Mullens’ religious beliefs, Turner said.

    Board members took no official action that evening, but Mullens was placed on administrative leave the next day pending an investigation, he said.

    According to a letter dated Jan. 28 originally faxed to Brookeland ISD and later faxed to The Enterprise by Mullens, the school district at no time informed Mullens of specific allegations or requested a statement from him in response to allegations.

    Turner declined to comment about what was said when he informed Mullens of the situation.

    The district has since requested that students and parents bring concerns to the administration. Turner said about 15 people came forward. He declined to comment about what they said, but added that students had to sign a statement agreeing that what they were saying was based on fact and not hearsay.

    Ard, the senior class president, said that two students started a petition to get Mullins back, but were told by the school principal to stop. Turner said he had not heard of any students starting a petition.

    Turner said board members will consider at their next meeting the information provided by those people who came forward.

    “We think at this point that we have resolved our problems with Mr. Mullens with his resignation,” Turner said.

    Mullens said he just wants the truth to come out.

    “I just want to be able to teach again,” he said. “I’ve been a good teacher since 1971.”

    With additional reporting from reporter Blair Dedrick Ortmann

  2. […] Posted on February 6, 2009. Filed under: Home, Left News | Tags: atheism, education, matt’s notepad, religion, richard mullens, school, teacher, texas | I hope there’s a law suit in the works.  Richard Mullens is the victim of illegal employer practices.  He was asked his religious beliefs at a school function and refused to answer.  A local preacher has been attacking him for his, as yet unconfirmed, atheistic beliefs. His story and transcript can be found here. […]

  3. Zack says:

    Damn assuming this is true I really feel for the guy. Hope things work out for him, I am sure this is illegal.

  4. Ryan says:

    Well i honestly do not care much for this story. There are so many “liberal” and biased professors where I live. They force their opinions down our throats about how god is not real and this and that and they force Obama down our throats. I knew girl who was suspended from school for saying that she was going to vote for McCain. So that wasn’t really fair now was it? So to all of you who feel for this guy dont.. because he is just one of many who should be fired because they will force their opinions and beliefs upon many students changing them into the Self-righteous, Self-preserving agnostic or atheist assholes that america is run by in this day and age.

    • mackenzie says:

      feel for this “guy”?
      my father, is a great man.
      and a wonderful teacher, may be biased sounding seeing he is my father.
      but, never-the-less he is a wonderful man, and has never shoved his opnions and beliefs on others, but simply opened their minds.
      For you to say something like that, because of your “expierences” with people you think have the same out look as my father, is simply just as close minded as the people at Brookeland Isd.
      Do not feel for my father, he does not need people like you supporting him, but I feel sorry for you.

    • wirehedd says:

      bullshit like yours is why religotards should be removed from ALL positions of education. You call atheists and agnostics assholes for wanting to believe in reality yet you expect others to be adherent and subjugated to your fantasies and unreal dogmatic nonsense. Go live in the middle east with the rest of religious psychopaths who want to force people to believe in their blithering superstitions.

      Another example of the American Taliban. Ignorant and arrogant all in the same stupid package.

      Education is about truth and reality. You want to learn about your imaginary sky daddy do it in the pointy house you gullible clowns get sucked into paying for. You can keep your gibberish there. There is no place for your foolishness in any institution of learning.

    • K says:

      Ryan, I’ve found that any time someone complains about a “liberal” college teacher, what they really mean was the teacher didn’t pat them on the head for spouting uninformed garbage.

      A good teacher will jump on student’s butt for saying “American cars actually get the exact same gas mileage as Japanese cars – the Japs just fiddle the numbers” (something a conservative student said to me once) as “homeopathy really works” (something a liberal student said to me once).

      Both are ignorant viewpoints, not based in facts at all. If you don’t want to learn, don’t go to college – it’s as simple as that. …however, I have found that “learning” has now become associated with being liberal.

  5. Matt says:

    Sorry but I won’t be accepting what you say without evidence to back it up. For example; “I knew girl who was suspended from school for saying that she was going to vote for McCain.” is a situation that is ripe for lawsuits of various kinds not to mention media reports … yet there has been nothing.

    “agnostic or atheist assholes that america is run by in this day and age.”
    You have seen the demographic breakdown of the USA, haven’t you? Three quarters of the population identifies itself as christian – that demographic would have a hard time trying to claim they’re being oppressed!

    • mackenzie says:

      thank you, for backing my father up.
      your support is still greatly appreciated as my father is moving around, state to state trying to find a job.

  6. jeremy says:

    This is total horse shit,,,
    A man lost his job for doing what? DOING HIS JOB!!!! As a teacher your job is to open the minds of your students an prepare them for the world ahead of them.
    In my opinion he did what he was supposed to be doing and his religious beliefs should not have played a part in any of this. If he is an Athiest then so what who are you to judge him for his beliefs. As an Athiest I don’t judge you for being religious, But you judge me for not being. Screw you Ryan!! People like you are whats wrong with our world. I say this man should file a class action suit against the school district. He will win to and ryan when he does i hope you choke on it..

  7. […] The Atheist Teacher The employee who just happens to be an atheist but would get fired from their job if their boss found out. http://mattcbr.wordpress.com/2009/02/06/teacher-fired-for-being-an-atheist/ […]

  8. […] The average small-town worker who just happens to be an atheist but would get fired from their job if their boss found out. http://mattcbr.wordpress.com/2… […]

  9. Tembew says:

    The problem is obvious. Atheists think that their position is “reality” and logical. When they push their views on others, its not pushing their views on people but “opening their minds”. This story needs more detail. I was on the guys side till I started reading between the lines. Where are the details of what he says in class? I am sure parents don’t want someone preaching their own views on their kids like that even if HE thinks its opening their minds. Atheists do not know what reality is and are arrogant if they think they do. You have no right

  10. […] The Atheist TeacherThe employee who just happens to be an atheist but would get fired from their job if their boss found out. http://mattcbr.wordpress.com/2009/02/06/teacher-fired-for-being-an-atheist/ […]

  11. […] The Atheist TeacherThe employee who just happens to be an atheist but would get fired from their job if their boss found out. http://mattcbr.wordpress.com/2009/02/06/teacher-fired-for-being-an-atheist/ […]

  12. […] The Atheist Teacher The employee who just happens to be an atheist but would get fired from their job if their boss found out.http://mattcbr.wordpress.com/2009/02/06/teacher-fired-for-being-an-atheist/ […]

  13. […] The Atheist Teacher The employee who just happens to be an atheist but would get fired from their job if their boss found out.http://mattcbr.wordpress.com/2009/02/06/teacher-fired-for-being-an-atheist/ […]

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