When Your Child’s School Undermines Christian Faith

My daughter came home from school one day in eighth grade and said, “My history teacher told us Christianity is a myth like all the other religions.”

It’s a common enough thing to hear in the public schools. What does a parent do when their child’s school undermines Christian faith?

Too Much Experience

We had a lot of experience dealing with teachers and administrators. Some might say we had too much experience. One of our children was bullied repeatedly. Though the worst of it wasn’t in fourth grade, the story of that year tells well, and sadly it’s true. The classroom was out of control, and our child was suffering from it. We exchanged a long series of meetings and emails with the teacher and principal. The pile of email printouts was about an inch thick.

Finally the teacher decided to put a tally mark on the blackboard for every student’s misbehavior, and take away five minutes of recess time from that student for each mark. The first day one student got twenty-six marks. Another one got more than twenty. Finally the principal transferred our child to another classroom. I don’t know what happened to the rest of the class, but our child was greatly relieved.

Building Good Relationships

And through it all we maintained a good relationship with the principal. We offered to donate Bible modules to the school’s Accelerated Reader program, and after extensive attorney consultation (you can’t be too careful!), the school accepted the donation, with the principal’s support all along the way — though he never indicated he was a believer.

We didn’t do everything right when our kids were in public schools, but this I think we did well: we kept in close touch with teachers and administrators. One principal was a close friend of the family; others knew from our actions that we cared about the schools, our children, and even the teachers.

When School Undermines Christian Faith

So when our daughter came home that day telling us what her history teacher had said about Christianity, we were in a good position to respond. We contacted the teacher and asked if we could talk with him about it. We met a couple days later in the principal’s office. A school division official sat with us, which I think was just in case we turned out to be crazy people who would go whacko. (Apparently our good relationship with the principal only went so far.)

We asked the teacher to explain what he had taught. He said he realized he had stepped over a line, based on educational law and parents’ rights. He apologized and said he would correct what he had said in class. We departed with smiles and warm handshakes. That was all it took.

If Going to Battle Is Necessary

There may be times when parents really need to go to battle for their kids. We had some of those experiences. I told the school superintendent once, “You will find that as we work toward resolving this situation, we will be consistently courteous, respectful, and professional with you — and also very persistent.”

I can’t explain anything further about that situation, except to say that it related to a very serious school administrator’s error that required the superintendent’s intervention —  there were unfortunately lawyers involved on both sides of this case — and that we maintained a solid, warm relationship with all in spite of it, including the administrator in question and the superintendent.

I saw that administrator a couple years later in a restaurant. He had retired to a university teaching position by then. We greeted each other with very warm smiles, and we introduced each other to our friends there. That was when I knew we had kept the relationship strong in spite of all.

My point is that even “going to battle” need not be battle-some.

Relational, Relational …

Parents must be involved in their children’s schools — relationally involved, volunteering (we did that, too), and demonstrating real care and Christian love. Then if there’s a problem, you can be well situated to deal with it — relationally.

What if that doesn’t settle the matter? Then, if it’s related to religious freedom, I’d suggest contacting the Alliance Defending Freedom. I’m very certain, though, that they would recommend starting where I’ve suggested you start: relationally, non-confrontationally, and with the expectation of a positive response. You can also find helpful background information and ideas at Gateways to Better Education.

If You Have Questions

It occurs to me that this topic in particular might touch a chord with some parents. We’d like to hear from you; my wife and I have more that we could share. Please feel free to get in direct contact with us.

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4 thoughts on “When Your Child’s School Undermines Christian Faith

  1. We asked the teacher to explain what he had taught. He said he realized he had stepped over a line, based on educational law and parents’ rights. He apologized and said he would correct what he had said in class. We departed with smiles and warm handshakes. That was all it took.

    Glad to hear it was resolved, and resolved positively (and, according to your report, in the correct direction).

    I’m sure you know this, but some of your readers might be pleased to find out that even atheists can support everybody’s free speech while recognizing limits on teacher expression in the classroom.

  2. Tom, in your case compromise is possible, I’m going to assume a history course can be taught without declaring Christianity a myth.

    What is the solution for a Christian/Muslim family believing in a literal 6-day creation? Or a world-wide flood killed the dinosaurs and created the Grand Canyon?

    How can you teach a high-school biology or geology class without directly contradicting their beliefs?

  3. Keith, that’s a harder one.

    It brings to mind what might have happened if the history teacher had stood his ground on “the Bible is a book of fables.” I could have gone two directions with it: argue the point, or apply legal pressure. Now in the case of young-earth creation, the legal door is closed, so there would be nothing to do but try to argue the point, which would be a losing battle for the parent. I don’t have anything helpful to offer someone in that case except (a) let it go, or (b) re-think the validity of your position.

  4. I would also add that none of those things undermines the core faith. The truth of Christianity doesn’t depend on whether or not six day creation is true or false. That’s what I would tell my students if I were the teacher.

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