Teacher says he was fired for giving inquisitive student a Bible
A substitute teacher in Phillipsburg, N.J., who was sacked for giving a student a Bible filed a complaint this week with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In his complaint against the Phillipsburg School District, the teacher, Walt Tutka, claims religious discrimination as well as retaliation, reports The Warren Reporter.
Tutka says his persecution began on Oct. 12, a day when he was working as a substitute in the Phillipsburg School District.
He alleges that he quipped to a student who happened to be standing last in a line: “The first shall be the last, and the last shall be the first.”
The line is a reference to a verse seen a handful of different times in the canonical Gospels (e.g., Matthew 19:30 and Mark 10:31).
The complaint goes on to say that the unidentified student “repeatedly” inquired about the source of Tutka’s profound remark. Tutka told him it came from the Bible and also asked the student if he owned a Bible.
When the student said he did not, Tutka says he gave the student a pocket-sized Bible he was carrying, reads the complaint.
On Oct. 18, the complaint continues, Superintendent George Chando informed Tutka that he was recommending the teacher’s termination over the illicit Bible conveyance.
Tutka asserts that he was actually fired on Jan. 14.
“I believe that I have been discriminated against in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and retaliated against regarding same,” Tutka’s complaint reads, according to The Express-Times.
The Texas-based Liberty Institute, a conservative Christian legal defense organization, is representing Tutka, along with an unnamed New Jersey law firm.
“It is shocking that the school district has forced Walt to file a complaint with the EEOC for religious discrimination,” Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for Liberty Institute,” told The Warren Reporter. “All Walt did was respond to a student’s intellectual curiosity and the school district suspended and then terminated him.”
The nonprofit advocacy group claims that the Phillipsburg School District has also failed to respond to an open-records request for emails and documents related to Tutka’s employment.
The Phillipsburg School District has been tight-lipped. Superintendent Chando told The Warren Reporter that he is “unable to comment at this time.”
Follow Eric on Twitter and send education-related story tips to email@example.com.