You want to know how tough some high school atheists have it? Check out this story JT Eberhard recently dealt with as the Secular Student Alliance’s high school specialist:
He recently got an anonymous letter from a high school teacher who saw the SSA’s Educator’s Brochure (PDF) and felt the need to correct it and save children from eternal damnation.
This person said that an atheist group had tried to form at his school but they faced an obstacle:
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… 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.
Not only did this teacher not want to create a safe haven for atheist students at his school, he admits that the club they wanted to start couldn’t get off the ground because they couldn’t find a sponsor.
That’s illegal. In short, if you can’t get a sponsor for an otherwise legal club, the school must assign you one. In other words, yes, he is “obligated to protect” them.
So what did JT do? A little bit of sleuthing, courtesy of Google. Followed by a letter to the “anonymous” man’s principal:
First, you should know why I’m emailing you, specifically, about a letter with no return address. 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.
You can read the rest of what JT wrote to the principal here. If the school doesn’t want to respond, we can alert our lawyer friends to take some legal action on them.
This is a case they will lose — and the SSA found out about it because one teacher wanted to brag about the fact that his employers wouldn’t allow an atheist group to form at his school.
I really love this part of JT’s response:
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.
Why is that important? Because the school may say, “This is a non-issue since those students graduated, so who cares what this teacher did?” JT’s response lets them know that the atheists are still attending the school this fall and they will have legal standing in a potential lawsuit.
It’s really sad that we have to keep fighting these battles, but that’s what young atheists are up against. Thankfully, the SSA can put a stop to it. Please donate so these types of incidents don’t go unchallenged.