By Corinne Murdock |
The faculty and instruction director at James Madison Preparatory School, a 6-12 charter school marketed as a classic liberal arts education with a focus on the Constitution, told students during a pre-Thanksgiving assembly that he was grateful for science and that science has proved God doesn’t exist. The school rents their classrooms from the adjacent Tempe Christian Church.
That charter school director, Paul Grant, has taught history at the charter school for 21 years. During the assembly, Grant reportedly pulled up a slide on a projector screen depicting creationism with a “no” symbol: a circle with a line through it, also called a “prohibition sign.” He stated that he was grateful to know science proved creationism wrong – the fundamental religious idea that God created the earth. One of the students’ parents filed a complaint with the school following that assembly: Dana Bailey Alexander.
David Batchelder, one of the founders of the charter school and its communications director, told AZ Free News in a statement last Wednesday that individuals don’t reflect the school as a whole – even those in leadership. Batchelder added that an investigation into Grant was underway, though he didn’t refer to him by name. Alexander identified Grant as the offending teacher to AZ Free News.
“The personal opinions or statements of an individual teacher or administrator do not reflect the views of James Madison Preparatory School. The school does not condone any speech or conduct that violates students’ rights. A formal complaint is under investigation. Any consequences will be determined as a result of the findings of that complaint.”
Batchelder followed up with Alexander on Wednesday in an email obtained by AZ Free News. He reported that their investigation found Grant’s comments to be inappropriate and over the line. Batchelder added that their legal counsel would determine appropriate consequences for Grant.
This communication is to report the results of the investigation and review of the complaint filed on 23 November 2021.
The assertions from your complaint related to inappropriate comments and visual materials presented during the daily assembly on 19 November 2021 have been substantiated based on interviews with students and staff who were present in the auditorium, and a review of the materials. The school staff member made inappropriate comments at assembly related to his individual beliefs and the individual beliefs of those present. These comments crossed a boundary which must be respected.
The comments made and materials presented are not consistent with the policies or philosophy of the school. The comments made and materials presented are not condoned or approved by the school.
The school engaged legal counsel to assist in this review and in determining consequences for the school staff member. The staff member has been counseled regarding these comments and disciplined accordingly. This staff member has apologized to all in the school community who were present at that assembly.
At this time the complaint is closed.
Over an hour after submitting that message, the school issued an apology for the incident via its newsletter. They also stated that Grant had already been counseled and disciplined on the matter, but didn’t disclose what that entailed.
“On Friday 19 November a member of the school made inappropriate comments at assembly. The comments are not constituent with the policies or the philosophy of the school and were not condoned or approved by the school,” read the statement. “After review of this incident, the staff member has been counseled regarding the comments and disciplined accordingly. This staff member has apologized to all in the school community who were present at that assembly.”