A WI School District Lied About a Substitute Who Admitted Preaching to Students July 19, 2018

A WI School District Lied About a Substitute Who Admitted Preaching to Students

Jason Storms is both an “pro-life” activist who thinks a woman who has an abortion is as “guilty as a murderer“… and a guy who got hired as a substitute teacher in the Milwaukee Public Schools.

That might not be a problem as long as he kept his views to himself, but Storms bragged on Facebook earlier this year that on his first day of subbing, he preached in front of the classroom “while the state paid me.”

He added that he hoped to do that “a couple times a month.”

Not long after he posted that, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the superintendent calling for more scrutiny for all substitutes and urging them to get rid of Storms.

“It is unconstitutional and completely inappropriate for a public school teacher, even a substitute, to ‘share [his religious] testimony,’ ‘preach the gospel,’ or seek to ‘make disciples’ in the classroom,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne to Superintendent Darienne Driver. “Parents expect that public school teachers will act in accordance with the Constitution and refrain from proselytizing students.”

FFRF is insisting that if Milwaukee Public Schools is allowing substitute teachers into the classroom without being informed of their constitutional obligations under the First Amendment, this must be rectified immediately.

However, FFRF emphasizes that even if Storms was not properly trained in this area, his bragging about preaching to students “for hours, while the state paid [him],” and his open “disgust with the public education system,” demonstrate that he is not suited to be a Milwaukee Public Schools substitute teacher.

As for Storms, he quickly backtracked on his comments saying he never preached in the classroom and that, even if he did, it wouldn’t have been a big deal.

Here are the facts. I have taught at two public charter schools in Milwaukee. I did not engage in proselytizing. I never attempted to get any child to join my church or convert to my particular denomination. I did not break the law. There is nothing illegal or unconstitutional with a teacher sharing their personal story or discussing their faith with students in a non-coercive manner. (In fact, public schools explicitly taught the precepts of Christianity for 150 years, and then men who penned the First Amendment encouraged this.)

So he shared his faith without giving students his business card… and he thinks that’s appropriate?! No! There’s no reason he should have been sharing his testimony at all.

But then the whole story got even stranger.

When my Patheos colleague Michael Stone wrote about all of this, a District official responded with a complete denial that Storms ever worked for them.

The information contained in this article is false as it relates to Milwaukee Public Schools. This individual has never worked for Milwaukee Public Schools in any capacity. The Freedom From Religion did not check facts before issuing a news release that contains false and incorrect information.

We have asked FFRF and [attorney Ryan] Jayne to remove the information from their website, issue a correction, and apologize to the district. Please remove this false information from your blog and share with your readers and subscribers that this information is incorrect.

Denise Callaway
MPS Director of Communications & Outreach

Callaway also called up FFRF to make a similar denial and demanded an apology.

So what was really going on? Somebody had to be lying here.

FFRF issued an open records request with the District to find out everything they could about Storms… and you’ll never believe what they found.

Not only was there proof that Storms worked at Assata High School (in the District) for two days in February, Callaway knew that according to an email she sent on March 2. (This was the day after she made the comment on Stone’s blog.)

Here’s what we know… we have never conducted a background check on [Jason Storms]. The individual has stated to news media that he worked at Assata on February 23 and 26 and that was affirmed by Assata as the only dates he worked for the school in February… This individual is apparently employed by a company called Parallel, which provides substitute teacher services. Our partnership schools contract with Parallel.

I’m more disturbed by the fact the District never conducted a background check on him that the fact Callaway was wrong. In any case, she never apologized or retracted her comments.

It’s also possible Storms subbed at other MPS schools before those dates (since he admitted to that) but the District emails couldn’t confirm it.

Furthermore, said FFRF, the open records showed that “at least four District community members or local residents had contacted the District with concerns about Mr. Storms, including one as early as February 19 — one week prior to FFRF’s letter.” That person received a response from the District that Storms “has never been a substitute teacher in one of our schools or one of our instrumentality charters. He is not employed with MPS in any way.”

Maybe he hadn’t subbed at that point, but he was clearly employed by the third party contracted by the District to provide subs.

What’s even scarier is that Assata is an alternative school for at-risk students. Yet the District allowed Storms to sub there twice without even bothering with a background check. He took advantage of that opportunity by preaching in the classroom.

FFRF attorney Ryan Jayne is now asking the District to “correct the public record.” Jayne wants the comment on Stone’s blog removed (or at least updated, which Callaway has the ability to do). He also wants a “written response with assurances that Storms will not substitute at MPS again” and that other subs will be properly trained not to preach.

It’s just an unbelievable story in which the public school district lashed out at FFRF for sharing a damning screenshot from Storms, asking the District why he was allowed to work there, and requesting further information.

Storms shouldn’t be working in any public school. The District should stop lashing out at critics bearing receipts. And FFRF should be commended for following up on this even when the District tried shooing them away.

(Screenshot via YouTube)

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