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