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DAILY PRESS & ARGUS — Howell schools: Teacher ignited controversial exchange

November 18, 2010
Dear AFA-Michigan supporter,

“Bullying students because their beliefs differed from his own.”

Please call and/or e-mail the Howell School Board and thank them for not tolerating the bullying behavior reported below by a teacher’s union official who obviously believes it’s his “right” to use class time to promote homosexual activists’ political agenda and trample the Constitutional free speech rights of any student who dares disagree.

Howell School Board
Phone: 517-548-6200
E-mail addresses:
drickd@howellschools.com
; routta@howellschools.com; literske@howellschools.com; yenshawm@howellschools.com; dayw@howellschools.com; REParker@Parker-and-Parker.com; moloneym@howellschools.com

The board is being bombarded with e-mails and calls from homosexual activist groups nationwide, demanding that the school district make a “hero” out of this bully rather than punish him. Please contact school board members today and urge them to protect the civil rights of all students by standing firm.

Thank you,
Glenn's signature
Gary Glenn
AFA-Michigan

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“Howell school officials said Wednesday students who witnessed the controversial Oct. 20 exchange between Howell High School teacher Jay McDowell and two students he kicked out of class say McDowell called them ‘racist,’ was irate, slammed doors, yelled and discussed their discipline in front of the other students. They say he continued to give his opinion while telling students to keep their opinions to themselves. And, according to district officials, he provoked the incident by asking the student if he accepted gays. When the student answered, ‘No, it’s against my religion,’ McDowell threw him out of class.

…The students, in their statements, allege McDowell told Glowacki, who said he didn’t accept the gay lifestyle because of his Catholic beliefs, that he should be in a Catholic school. …The statements go on to allege McDowell told the students in his class to keep their opinions to themselves. When students asked McDowell, ‘What about free speech?’ McDowell allegedly replied, ‘Not in my classroom,’ according to the statements. Students go on to allege McDowell continued to give his opinion, wouldn’t accept those of his students, and got ‘defensive’ and ‘irate’ when opposing opinions were offered by students. Students went on to tell the district they thought the day was wasted, adding they should have been learning economics instead of discussing personal beliefs.

…The district determined McDowell himself created an atmosphere where homosexuality would be discussed by wearing a shirt meant to highlight a gay student’s suicide. …’Jay McDowell himself bullied students who offered an opinion different than his own,’ (Howell Superintendent Ron) Wilson said. …'(McDowell) was suspended for his own inappropriate actions — for bullying students because their beliefs differed from his own.’”

———————————–

DAILY PRESS & ARGUS
Howell, Michigan
November 18, 2010

Howell schools: Teacher ignited controversial exchange
By Jason Carmel Davis, Daily Press & Argus

Howell school officials said Wednesday students who witnessed the controversial Oct. 20 exchange between Howell High School teacher Jay McDowell and two students he kicked out of class say McDowell called them “racist,” was irate, slammed doors, yelled and discussed their discipline in front of the other students.
They say he continued to give his opinion while telling students to keep their opinions to themselves.

And, according to district officials, he provoked the incident by asking the student if he accepted gays. When the student answered, “No, it’s against my religion,” McDowell threw him out of class.

McDowell denied the allegations Wednesday morning.

“The teacher made a bad call. Kids asking questions isn’t a reason to kick them out of class,” Howell Public Schools Board of Education President Debi Drick concluded.

School officials on Wednesday morning gave the Daily Press & Argus a summary of witness statements taken the day after the Oct. 20 incident involving McDowell and 16-year-old student Daniel Glowacki in an economics class. The statements were part of the investigation that led to McDowell being suspended a day without pay.

In the statements, taken from about 12 of the 29 students in McDowell’s sixth-hour economics class, students allege that once McDowell removed Glowacki and another student from the class, the teacher went into the hallway and yelled at the two students.

At least one of the witnesses stated McDowell called the two students racists.
McDowell on Wednesday morning called those claims “ridiculous.” He declined to comment further at this time.

“The story has been told, not just locally, but on a national level,” Drick said. “The story that’s been told isn’t complete. The written statements contradict the story that’s been told.”

“At this point, we feel compelled to respond with the facts as they have been presented to administration,” Howell Superintendent Ron Wilson said. “With many other serious issues before us, it is time for this debate to end.”

Drick and Wilson on Wednesday discussed McDowell’s recent appearances on MSNBC and Detroit’s WDIV-TV Channel 4.

Wilson said the district has upheld the decision to suspend McDowell.

“(McDowell) is not helping the district by going on TV talking about this issue,” Wilson said. “I’ve even gotten calls from California from people saying we should reverse our decision. I’m the CEO of the largest corporation in Livingston County. I don’t have the authority to deviate from board policy. This has really put (the district) in a bad light.”

McDowell, who has taught in the district nine years, filed a grievance over the suspension and is discussing the matter with legal counsel.

A hearing will take place early next week that will be moderated by Deputy Superintendent Lynn Parrish, Wilson said. The district, Wilson said, will have 10 days after that to respond.

“During one of the earlier meetings with Mr. McDowell regarding the disciplinary action, he threatened to bring a media frenzy upon the schools if the district’s decision was not reversed,” Wilson said. “He and his supporters have succeeded in painting our schools as having bigoted, racist and homophobic students, and the media has served as an unwitting partner. What started out as a disagreement over the expression of one’s beliefs has degraded into an unhealthy series of diatribes that paint our schools as dangerous places to work and learn.”

Drick and Wilson said they believe McDowell, who is president of the Howell Education Association teachers’ union, has presented a distorted version of the events on Oct. 20, a national Spirit Day promoting anti-bullying, when McDowell and Glowacki argued about another student wearing a belt buckle featuring the Confederate flag. McDowell asked that student to remove the belt buckle, and she did.

McDowell, in a statement he released Nov. 1, said he is not opposed to any student’s beliefs and that he disciplined the students for inappropriate speech and disruption to class.

The students, in their statements, allege McDowell told Glowacki, who said he didn’t accept the gay lifestyle because of his Catholic beliefs, that he should be in a Catholic school. Students also stated that McDowell called Assistant Principal Jennifer Goodwin, in front of the class, and told her he didn’t want the two students back in his class.

The statements go on to allege McDowell told the students in his class to keep their opinions to themselves. When students asked McDowell, “what about free speech?” McDowell allegedly replied, “not in my classroom,” according to the statements.

Students go on to allege McDowell continued to give his opinion, wouldn’t accept those of his students, and got “defensive” and “irate” when opposing opinions were offered by students. Students went on to tell the district they thought the day was wasted, adding they should have been learning economics instead of discussing personal beliefs.

Drick said there were statements from “a couple students” defending McDowell. She added the district took common statements, though. She added that, through the statements, officials found there was no bullying done by Glowacki.

“There is a common thread throughout the witness statements,” Wilson said Wednesday. “Based on the … statements, administration determined that Jay McDowell acted inappropriately in response to a question that was not bullying in nature. The entire day’s atmosphere created an environment ripe for such questions to be asked.”

The district determined McDowell himself created an atmosphere where homosexuality would be discussed by wearing a shirt meant to highlight a gay student’s suicide. The district also determined McDowell created a disturbance by instructing a student to remove a belt buckle, thereby denying the student her First Amendment rights.

“Jay McDowell himself bullied students who offered an opinion different than his own,” Wilson said. “The belt buckle was not the cause of the disturbance, nor did it bully anyone. No student complained about the buckle, and board policy clearly states that unless an object causes a disturbance, the object should be left alone.

“Additionally, Jay McDowell had numerous opportunities to resolve the situation amicably, but, instead chose to act in a manner that escalated the situation.”

Based on those statements, the district investigation determined Glowacki had not engaged in either bullying behavior nor hate speech. Therefore, McDowell, Wilson said, should not have kicked Glowacki out of class.

Additionally, Wilson said, McDowell should not have engaged in behavior that included yelling, slamming doors, name-calling and discussing potential discipline in front of other students.

This is the first incident McDowell had been involved in, Wilson said, so the district felt the one-day suspension was fair.

“If the statements and determination say the student wasn’t bullying anybody, why kick him out of class?” Drick said.

“My fear is, I don’t want some kid somewhere to do something stupid because something happens to them in class and they don’t think the district will stand up for them,” she said.

“(McDowell’s) actions were not congruent with board policy, nor with state and federal,” according to the district’s determination. “(McDowell) was suspended for his own inappropriate actions — for bullying students because their beliefs differed from his own.”

McDowell’s suspension came after district officials took statements from the students and conducted the investigation resulting from a complaint filed by a parent.

Glowacki and his mother, Sandy Glowacki, also met with district officials after the incident. She said she had a productive meeting with McDowell and considered the issue over. She said she wasn’t aware of McDowell’s suspension until it had been finalized.

She added she may seek legal counsel based on things that have been said about her son online.

Daniel Glowacki, who has since been moved to another economics class, last month told the Daily Press & Argus he’s not a bigot and that he doesn’t want people to believe he’s against gays.

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To read Superintendent Ron Wilson’s statement on the situation, click here.

http://www.livingstondaily.com/article/20101118/NEWS01/101118001/Howell-schools-Teacher-ignited-controversial-exchange-with-document-__________________________________________________

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