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Church State Issues

Teacher resigns because student calls Jesus "Fictional"

Dec 11, 2014

Opposing Views

More on that story about Jesus giving marijuana to the sick :)

Teacher Katrina Guarascio Resigns After Student Pens a Story on Jesus and Marijuana

Sounds like the teacher was forced to resign.


Teacher Katrina Guarascio Resigns After Student Pens a Story on Jesus and Marijuana

By Amanda Andrade-..., Tue, December 09, 2014

A teacher at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, said she was forced to quit after she allowed her students to have free reign in her creative writing class.

Katrina Guarascio gave her students an assignment to take a fairy tale or legend and rewrite it in a modern context. One student took the biblical story of Jesus feeding people fish and bread, and replaced it with Jesus giving marijuana to the sick.

“I don't take any personal offense,” Guarascio said. "It's not written for me. It's written for them. It's how they can express themselves."

In a peer review between students, one classmate was deeply offended by the story’s content and told her parents. The district then investigated the incident, and Guarascio was put on administrative leave.

Guarascio said she felt targeted and harassed at work and felt she was forced to resign. “[The investigation was] kind of a slap in the face for years of hard work,” she said.

A spokesperson for Rio Rancho Schools said Guarascio chose to resign. "The teacher involved chose to resign rather than follow the district's direction that classes be administered in a professional manner,” she said.

Despite this, Guarascio said she still loves teaching. She advised her students to keep writing, despite the critics.“If they have something to say, say it,” she said. “Not everyone's going to agree with you. But that doesn't make your point invalid or worthless. Tell your story.”


Source

Classroom controversy at a Rio Rancho high school

By Jon Swedien / Journal Staff Writer

PUBLISHED: Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 12:05 am

CORRECTION: Katrina Guarascio’s name was spelled wrong in an earlier version of this story.

What seemed at first to be an innocuous creative writing assignment sparked a controversy at a Rio Rancho high school that ultimately cost Katrina Guarascio her job, the former English teacher said Tuesday.

In response to the assignment, one student wrote an essay about Jesus distributing marijuana. Another student complained to her parents about it.

Guarascio, an English teacher at V. Sue Cleveland High School, ended up being put on paid leave for three weeks, and then later asked to change her creative writing class or resign – which on Dec. 3 she did.

The district contends it was addressing what it considered unprofessional behavior on her part, not the writing assignment or student’s essay.

In early October, Guarascio asked students in her creative writing class to retell a classic tale. That’s when one of Guarascio’s students refashioned the biblical story in which Jesus gives loaves of bread and fish to the poor – except in the student’s story, Jesus gave marijuana to the sick.

The story offended another student when she was asked to read it as part of a peer review, meaning students read and critique each other’s work. The offended student told her parents, who in turn complained to the school’s administration.

Guarascio was then put on leave for three weeks while the administration interviewed students about her classroom behavior. On Nov. 5, the school asked Guarascio to come back, she said.

Guarascio said it was not made clear to her why she was put on leave, which she said was frustrating. She said she was reprimanded for having students read each others’ work – peer review is a writing and editing process that is part of the class – and for having former students who were still at Cleveland as Facebook friends.

The district said the student’s story was not the administrators’ primary concern.

“We would note that the primary concerns raised with Ms. Guarascio were not focused on the written product produced by students but on other issues, including the fact that students were required to read other students’ essays and comment on content they found objectionable,” read a statement issued by the district.

Superintendent Sue Cleveland, for whom the school is named, said Tuesday that the topic of peer review has been a controversial one in Rio Rancho. She said some parents don’t like the idea that other students will read their children’s work, while other parents like peer review.

Cleveland said the issue has been raised in the courts before and it’s important that if teachers use peer review they let students opt out.

But Guarascio said her students were never forced to read each other’s work and they could always choose whether to do so.

Guarascio also said she sent a course description for her creative writing class home with students to show their parents. In it, she said she would not censor their creative writing in the elective class and that students would be asked to read each others’ work. She provided the 21-page description to the Journal on Tuesday.

After she came back to the school, administrators asked Guarascio not talk to students about why she was gone for three weeks, she said.

“There were a lot of rumors that were untrue,” said Alicia Borillo, a 17-year-old senior at Cleveland. Many of the rumors were not very nice and students would ask her why she had been gone, Borillo said.

After initially refusing, Guarascio did tell students why she’d been gone but did so without identifying the student who complained, she said.

“I didn’t want my reputation to be jaded,” Guarascio said.

On the day before Thanksgiving, administrators told Guarascio she could either resign or write a plan describing how she would become more professional in the classroom, she said. She said she doesn’t understand how she had not acted professionally.

“Ms. Guarascio chose to resign her position rather than follow the district’s direction that classes be administered in a professional manner and that all persons on a school campus behave appropriately,” the district’s statement said.

“Any suggestion that the teacher was forced to resign because of students’ exercise of free speech rights is simply not true.”

Guarascio is popular with many students and is known for organizing poetry readings in the community.

On Tuesday, the day after KOAT-TV ran a piece on Guarascio’s resignation, her social media pages erupted with support.

Heather MacNeil, whose son Wil had Guarascio in his pre-Advanced Placement English class, said she is upset over the way Guarascio was treated.

MacNeil said her son is smart but had never shown much interest in writing until he took Guarascio’s class. But now his class has been taught by a string of substitutes, MacNeil said.

“Now over 100 kids are affected by this, whereas only one was offended by the piece of writing,” she said.

Cleveland said she understands Guarascio’s departure was very upsetting for some parents and teachers.

“I do understand there were parents of students who liked her very much, and I think her departure is a very sad thing for them,” Cleveland said. She also said the district didn’t want to hurt Guarascio.

Borillo, who was in Guarascio’s classes during her sophomore and junior years, said she encouraged them to express themselves.

“She taught her students to express themselves and how to speak up even when no one was listening,” Borillo said. “She’s important to a lot of people and what happened was really unfair.”

Guarascio said she plans to seek a teaching job in another district.


Source

Teacher Quits After Student Pens Jesus, Pot Story

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Dec 9, 2014, 1:21 PM ET Associated Press

A New Mexico high school teacher has left her job after a student rewrote the biblical story about Jesus handing out bread and fish to the poor into a narrative about Jesus handing out marijuana to the sick.

Katrina Guarascio, a creative writing teacher at Cleveland High School in the Albuquerque suburb of Rio Rancho, had assigned students to take a fairy tale or legend and rewrite it in modern times.

KOAT-TV ( http://goo.gl/D84SKO ) reported Monday that Guarascio says a student got offended by the story and told her parents.

The teacher says she recently quit after the district put her on administrative leave. Guarascio says she felt targeted and harassed.

A Rio Rancho Schools spokeswoman says Guarascio was not forced to resign but chose to do so.

———

Information from: KOAT-TV, http://www.thenewmexicochannel.com/index.html


Source

Jesus, pot story: School district releases statement

Statement: RRPS regrets the need to further discuss this issue publicly

UPDATED 8:56 PM MST Dec 10, 2014

Teacher resigns after student writes about Jesus drugs

When a Cleveland High School student wrote about Jesus and drugs for an assignment, that caused some controversy in Rio Rancho -- now a teacher at the school is off the job.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. —When a Cleveland High School student wrote about Jesus and drugs for an assignment, that caused some controversy in Rio Rancho -- now a teacher at the school is off the job.

“I love teaching,” said creative writing teacher Katrina Guarascio. “I’m not there to judge them. I’m there to encourage them.”

The assignment was to take a fairy tale or legend and rewrite it in modern times. One student changed the biblical story about Jesus handing out bread and fish to the poor to Jesus handing out marijuana to the sick.

“I don't take any personal offense. It's not written for me. It's written for them. It's how they can express themselves,” said Guarascio.

Guarascio said she felt targeted, harassed and forced to resign.

The teacher was not forced to resign because of the students’ freedom of speech rights, according to a spokeswoman for Rio Rancho Schools. The spokeswoman said the teacher chose to resign.

The district released the following statement Wednesday:

"The public’s erroneous perception of this issue is that it focuses solely on a student’s creative writing assignment.

"Due to the misrepresentation of the facts in this case, primarily through social media, the district unfortunately now has an obligation to the community to clarify the situation.

"There have been numerous concerns raised about this teacher and her classroom.

"We received reports of repeated uses of profanity and sexually explicit language in the classroom that were inappropriate in a public school setting. The teacher was offered the opportunity to change her instructional practices and she chose instead to resign, as is her right.

"All teachers at Rio Rancho Public Schools are required to adhere to accepted professional standards as stated in the Code of Ethical Responsibility of the Educational Profession. To this end, all RRPS teachers receive and sign an agreement to follow a professional code of conduct.

"RRPS regrets the need to further discuss this issue publicly, but believes that not doing so would present a disservice to our community. Due to laws governing the confidentiality of personnel macomments to those stated above and will not be able to respond further to questions regarding this matter."tters, Rio Rancho Public Schools must limit its comments to those stated above and will not be able to respond further to questions regarding this matter."