A nervous seventh-grader walks up to a podium situated in front of several Katy Independent School District School Board members. The room grows silent as Jordan Wooley tells administrators that one of her teachers made her feel as though she had to deny God to receive a passing grade.
“Today I was given an assignment in school that questioned my faith and told me that God was not real,” Wooley said at the beginning of her statement at the Oct. 26 Board meeting.
She goes on to say that her teacher asked the class to determine whether God was a fact, opinion or myth.
The West Memorial Junior High School student said several of her classmates were upset by the assignment, citing their belief in God. And when they asked if they could respond with their own beliefs, they were told they would get the answer marked wrong.
Katy ISD Superintendent Alton Frailey told the young girl that she was brave to stand up for what she believes in and apologized that she felt her faith was called into question.
“We will be looking into that, and we very much appreciate you coming,” Frailey said at the School Board meeting on Oct. 26.
The district spent the next few days investigating the incident and was unable to corroborate Wooley’s allegations.
“If I had any reason to believe that there was evidence to support it—that a teacher did what was alleged—I would stand with Jordan as well,” the superintendent said at a press conference on Oct. 29.
After speaking in front of the press and members of the community, Frailey released a statement discussing his own faith and how troubled he was over the incident.
“As a life-long Christian, I too was very concerned when I first heard about this at Monday’s Board meeting,” he said. “The experience the student described does not speak to the principles and character of Katy ISD and the community in which it belongs.”
He said it is never okay for a student to feel they must denounce their faith.
“That’s just not going to happen here,” he said. “That’s not our Katy community. That’s not our school district. That’s not who we are.”
Frailey acknowledged the student’s allegations, but said the school administration feels certain that “the teacher’s activity and interaction with students was never ill-intended or designed to denounce anyone’s beliefs or admonish anyone for their faith.”
Although the allegations were discovered to be unfounded, Frailey does admit that the worksheet in question did contain inappropriate material, and the district sincerely apologizes.
“The teacher and the school cannot take back the sequence of unfortunate events that resulted from the class activity, or the commentary or misinformation that has ensued,” he said in the statement. “However, we can all learn from the experience this incident has created.”
The superintendent assured parents and community members that curriculum and school activities will be closely monitored in the future, and said the incident has given the community a unique opportunity.
“I encourage us to reflect upon this experience and use it as a catalyst for strengthening our deeply-rooted Katy values and our importance to one another as we endeavor to give our children a quality place to live and whole learning experiences.”