My name is JT Eberhard and I am the High School Specialist with the Secular Student Alliance.
So begins a letter to the principal of “XYZ High School”, the employer of a zealously Christian teacher clever enough to send his anonymous hate letter (yep, snail mail) with no return address to the SSA. Unfortunately for him, he was stupid enough to sign the letter with his name and email. Who does that?
For those living on Mars, the SSA has in recent years proven increasingly successful at establishing school clubs for non-believers, and in general advocating for the rights of secular students. They are a worthy organization, and JT Eberhard is one of their most outspoken activists, with a popular blog to use as a megaphone. It’s no wonder they have incurred the ire of the nutty Fundies, while their media star has risen.
Apparently the teacher had gotten his grubby little mitts on one of the SSA’s brochures and decided instead that the non-profit organization was “an agent of Lucifer.” Here’s a pick of provocative quotes (from Jezebel.com’s recap):
Obviously, I would not want to help students down the wrong path. A group tried to form at our school. It was from one of those students that I received this brochure. Not surprisingly, they could not get a teacher to sponsor the club. As educators we are dedicated to conveying the truth to students. If the students are proud of believing there is no God they should not feel like they have to hide it. They should not feel the need for a safe haven.
Educational staff has the responsibility of preparing students to be responsible adults. We expect all students to be treated with respect. We are not, however, obligated to protect those who choose to be deviants in society.
A welcoming environment is what we should not create. Satan should not be comfortable in God’s world. You say they should develop their own world view when you really want them to adopt your world view. The book they need to read for information is the Bible. Nontheism should not be spoken of in a tone of acceptance.
Sigh. Here, as you can see, the teacher is bragging about a conspiracy and culture of discrimination at his school. What’re ya gonna do when the dolt includes his email address, and the email address includes the zip code?
Cross reference, of course; and that’s just what JT did, finally narrowing his search down to one teacher at one school. I can almost see JT sitting back, a surprised smile crooking his lips, when he realized he’d found the wing-nut. I can almost hear the tippity-tap of his keyboard as he worded his reply “strongly”. It must have been delicious as he wrote this, for instance:
While the letter itself contained no return address, the sender included his email address as well as proof that he is a teacher at a high school. The email address belongs to a man named XXXXX whose email is NAME12345@yahoo.com. There are presently three XXXXXs teaching at high schools in the United States. I’m sure you recognize 12345 as the zip code of [US CITY WHERE THE SCHOOL IS LOCATED]. Not only that, XYZ High School was the only school of the three to which the SSA had sent a group-starting packet in the last year and a half, which explains how Mr. XXXXX would’ve gotten a copy of our educators brochure. It seems irrefutably clear that the letter was sent by the XXXXX who teaches at XYZ High School.
From there, it just goes downhill for Mr. XXXXX. If you haven’t yet, you should read JT’s smack-down letter, in full. It’s a model approach, a template for the future, and in it JT provides an example of how we ought to react when believers discriminate with impunity. It’s chock-full of information, and has the effecting of “overwhelming with evidence” before the school lawyer’s could open their big fat-cat mouths.
The concluding remarks are my favorite, though. Gawd, I wish it had been my H.S. principal shitting his pants when hit by this:
Your teacher, Mr. XXXXX, has taken it upon himself to send me documented proof that your school, with the help of several of its faculty, defied the law. In the process of implicating his colleagues, Mr. XXXXX boasted of discriminating against his nontheistic students and made no effort to even conceal the religious motivations for doing so. He even confirms this on his letter’s final page.
The group that tried to get started here could not find a sponsor because as educators we want to lead students in a positive direction; not lead them to hell.
For an agent of the government, this behavior is egregious. The fact that Mr. XXXXX has expressed a willingness to create an atmosphere of inequality in a public school is compounded by the fact that Mr. XXXXX apparently doesn’t understand even the basic legal obligations of a government/school employee. This makes him a very serious liability not only to XYZ High School, but also to the administration that hired him and which is charged with maintaining legal compliance (not to mention compliance with XYZ’s nondiscrimination policy).
So, to sum up our situation; your teacher sent us a letter detailing the ways in which XYZ broke the law. His letter was dripping with pride as he handed us an open and shut case of religious discrimination, while presumably under the impression that not including his school email or a return address would keep us from finding him. This man represents your school, which is something that should give you pause as its principal, particularly if this issue becomes any bigger than it is at present. The Secular Student Alliance works to ensure that the rights of all students are protected. Since I can only assume we share this goal, Mr. #####, we need to talk about what is going to be done here.
I will give you until Monday morning a 9am EDT to consult your legal counsel and to respond to this email with how you plan to rectify this situation. Your legal counsel will undoubtedly ask you if the students who attempted to start the club will still be students at XYZ in the fall. I have taken the liberty of answering that question before contacting you: yes, they will be. You will also need to let me know a time on Tuesday that the SSA’s Regional Organizer in [US STATE], [SSA ORGANIZER], can come to your office and talk to you about Mr. XXXXX’s letter.
As I said earlier, the Secular Student Alliance empowers students and works to ensure their rights are protected. In the event that those rights are violated, we step in to ensure the students get the support and opportunities they’re entitled to under the law. The violation is often a misunderstanding which can be set right with a letter or phone call explaining the relevant case law and the students’ needs. If necessary, however, we connect the students with legal representation and bring the matter to court.
Your kind of my hero right now, JT. Just sayin’.
In fact, I’m inventing a new thing. I sloppily made these honorary badges, and I think you deserve one. So, for acting selflessly in defense of banned atheists, JT Eberhard, I do hereby award you The B.A.N.’s Badge of Honor:
(In fairness, I also hereby retroactively award badges to Alexander Aan and Sanal Edamaruku.)
JT has posted an update on the unfolding drama of teacher XXXXX at XYZ High:
Yesterday I got a call from the HR manager in the district. She said they needed until Wednesday to get a review from their lawyers. That was reasonable, so I granted it. If their lawyers are smart, they will inform the district of just how screwed they are. However, this is in a pretty conservative area, so who knows what will happen. The HR person also said something that made me think they might try to fight this.
HR Person: It’s important to remember that [TEACHER] has his first amendment rights too.
Me: *pause out of shock* Yes, he does. He also has the right to remain silent, which I suggest you encourage him to use. He is, of course, free to use his first amendment right to free speech to tell me all the ways he’s breaking the law, but that is not in the favor of [SCHOOL NAME].
She responded by telling me their lawyers had it and they’d get back to me on Wednesday.
So, what happens if they decide to fight (or if they jerk me around)? In short, I will attempt to make this teacher into the school’s new mascot. I will do my damndest to make sure every available eye is pointed at this school watching them defend the bad guy. I will also post names and email addresses and count on you, my lovelies, to ensure they are spread far and wide.
Heh heh. This could get … interesting. I’ll update this post with excerpts as the story unfolds.
The Hufflepuff Post picked up on the tale of JT’s epic smackdown. Here’s what he had to say to HuffPo:
According to Eberhard, incidents like this are not uncommon.
“This is not the first time we’ve gotten word of a teacher/administrator like this. Not even close. The reality is that more than half of high school secular groups that attempt to form experience some kind of resistance from their faculty or administration,” Eberhard told The Huffington Post in an email. “But people are becoming more aware. Watching that support roll in even more than before during the last few days has meant the world to us at the SSA — and even more to the high schoolers.”
Eberhard also told HuffPost he is refraining from releasing the teacher and school’s information for now because the teacher and HR department contacted him asking to extend his deadline to Wednesday.