The Freedom From Religion Foundation is concerned over a Wisconsin school district substitute teacher’s constitutional violation.
A local resident reported to FFRF that Jason Storms, who says he recently received a license to substitute teach in the Milwaukee Public Schools system, expressed disgust with public education and boasted about a major constitutional violation in a Facebook post dealing with his teaching experience.
“I got to share my testimony and preach boldly to hundreds of students for hours, while the state paid me. The principal told me she heard nothing but positive things. The fun thing about substitute teaching is it is very flexible. I can go in as much or as little as I want, hope to be able to do this at least a couple times a month. #PreachTheGospel #MakeDisciples”
It is well settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion. Since Storms admitted to “boldly” proselytizing to students on taxpayer time rather than teaching the appropriate secular curriculum, FFRF is requesting that he not teach in Milwaukee Public Schools again. FFRF is also asking that in the future all new substitute teachers at the school district will be clearly informed that they are not permitted to promote religion while acting in their official capacity as Milwaukee Public Schools teachers.
“It is unconstitutional and completely inappropriate for a public school teacher, even a substitute, to ‘share [his religious] testimony,’ ‘preach the gospel,’ or seek to ‘make disciples’ in the classroom,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne to Superintendent Darienne Driver. “Parents expect that public school teachers will act in accordance with the Constitution and refrain from proselytizing students.”
FFRF is insisting that if Milwaukee Public Schools is allowing substitute teachers into the classroom without being informed of their constitutional obligations under the First Amendment, this must be rectified immediately.
However, FFRF emphasizes that even if Storms was not properly trained in this area, his bragging about preaching to students “for hours, while the state paid [him],” and his open "disgust with the public education system," demonstrate that he is not suited to be a Milwaukee Public Schools substitute teacher.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Wisconsin-based national nonprofit organization with more than 32,000 members across the country, including more than 1,300 in Wisconsin. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.
UPDATE: FFRF is working with Milwaukee Public Schools and our local complainant to determine the circumstances of Mr. Storms’ statement.