Schooled Reporting on education

Christian schools ‘exposed’ as caring, supportive

Education | The Twitter protest #ExposeChristianSchools backfires
by Laura Edghill
Posted 1/30/19, 03:26 pm

A New York Times reporter’s effort to collect stories of students’ negative experiences at Christian schools backfired last week. On Jan. 24, Dan Levin tweeted, “I’m a New York Times reporter writing about #exposechristianschools. Are you in your 20s or younger who went to a Christian school? I’d like to hear about your experience and its impact on your life. Please DM me.”

The hashtag #ExposeChristianSchools appeared earlier in the month alongside tweets about Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, returning to teach elementary art at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Va. Social media users accused the school of discrimination because of its orthodox stance on Biblical sexuality. Immanuel’s employment application says “homosexual or lesbian sexual activity” disqualifies potential candidates, and it maintains the right to intervene if the conduct within a student’s home is counter to a Biblical lifestyle, including “homosexual activity or bisexual activity.”

The hashtag then popped up in the debate over a viral video of a group of Catholic high school students from Kentucky who were wrongly accused of harassing a Native American man at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., after the March for Life on Jan. 18. Levin posted his tweet a few days later. The ensuing public comment stream included numerous first-hand descriptions of Christian schools as positive, supportive, and academically rigorous.

On Tuesday, the Times published a short collection of some of the comments it received, positive and negative toward Christian schools, with an introduction by Levin explaining that #ExposeChristianSchools started as an effort to show the worst side of religious education.

“The Association of Christian Schools International is saddened but not altogether surprised” by the hashtag’s existence and Levin’s use of it, said Larry Lincoln, a spokesman for the accrediting body. “The hashtag wasn’t created by The New York Times and does have a negative name, [but] the reporter has received quite a bit of positive tweets from people who went to Christian schools. There is also a great deal of support out there for Christian schools in the form of opinion pieces, former students writing about their positive experiences.”

After his original post, Levin’s Twitter page swelled with respectful comment after comment describing how valuable each user’s Christian education had proven. “I’d be happy to share my great experience and the moral values I was taught that I continue to carry on throughout my life today. Will these actually be reported on, or just the negative ones that you hear?” one user tweeted. Another said, “My Christian education was a happy experience, my teachers were committed to the well-being of their students.”

But some users also shared heartbreaking descriptions of damage and abuse they endured while at Christian schools, as well as public and other types of schools. Their tweets serve as a sobering reminder that all human nature falls short and temptations lurk everywhere.

Others questioned Levin’s journalistic integrity because his tweet appeared to solicit only negative anecdotes. “Honest question: is fishing for stories like this considered proper journalism?” asked one user. “Trawling for biased views on the internet is a thing NYT endorses now?” tweeted another.

Levin revised the original tweet before his final article appeared in the paper. It said he “want[s] to hear about all experiences, including positive stories/impact about your time in school.”

Facebook/Christian Heritage Academy Facebook/Christian Heritage Academy A Christmas-themed drawing by Myron Peterson at Christian Heritage Academy in Lakeville, Minn.

School’s mystery artist identified

Students and staff at Christian Heritage Academy in Lakeville, Minn., recently solved an intriguing mystery. For weeks, remarkable original drawings kept popping up on the building’s whiteboards without anyone spotting the anonymous artist. The multicolored doodles included characters from Star Wars and the Bible, winter scenes, and charming animals.

“They come in and they get all excited,” said second-grade teacher Marcia Budnik. “‘Look who’s on our board today!’”

The school eventually identified janitor Myron Peterson as the mystery artist, who considers the fact that he can even hold a marker, let alone create the intricate drawings, a blessing. Peterson, who calls himself a former “stick-figure artist,” was involved in an automobile accident in 2017 that left him with a traumatic brain injury that somehow unlocked a hidden artistic talent. “I’ve never taken lessons on this,” he said.

A former facilities manager, Peterson said he is grateful for his current job, the first he’s had since the crash. His brain injury may have gifted him with unusual artistic ability, but it also left him with debilitating migraines, limiting his viable work options.

Peterson described his early morning routine at the academy, saying, “It’s peaceful, and I pray for the teachers and the kids.”

Principal Gail Wolfe said that Peterson has formed a unique relationship with the academy’s students as a result of his early-hours doodling. The academy may have advertised for a part-time janitor, but they got so much more, she told KARE-TV in Minneapolis. —L.E.

Associated Press/Photo by P. Solomon Banda Associated Press/Photo by P. Solomon Banda Teachers outside Denver Public School headquarters on Thursday

Where teachers could strike next

Virginia public school teachers marched on the state Capitol on Monday, demanding pay raises and more state dollars for schools overall.

An emboldening wave of education protests began last February with a nine-day teachers strike in West Virginia. That strike ended when Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, agreed to a 5 percent statewide pay raise for teachers and certain other public employees. Earlier this month, 30,000 Los Angeles teachers went on strike for six days, and Denver teachers remain poised for their own stand-off. Other states, such as Illinois, Texas, and Washington, have trouble brewing on the same front.

“Some of this action breeds more action,” said Daniel Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, one of two major teachers unions in the state. “People look around and say, ‘It is possible to do this. The teachers walked out in West Virginia and the walls didn’t cave in.’”

In every instance, teacher pay is a central concern, but looming healthcare and pension costs remain unaddressed, effectively kicking the can down the road for now. —L.E.

Extending credit

In a flurry of legislative activity last week that included a dramatic weakening of protections for unborn children, New York also passed a law giving illegal immigrants access to state financial aid for college.

The José Peralta DREAM Act offers state loans and grants to illegal immigrants in the state who possess either a New York state high school diploma or equivalent or otherwise meet the standard for in-state tuition. The plan could cost $27 million annually, an amount Republican legislators argued was unfair to taxpayers and immigrants who came to the state legally.

“It sends the wrong message to the millions who have worked their way through college and are still dealing with crippling student loan debt,” Republican state Sen. Fred Akshar said. —L.E.

Laura Edghill

Laura Edghill is a freelance writer, church communications director, and public school board member living in Clinton Township, Mich., with her engineer husband and three sons. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow Laura on Twitter @LTEdghill.

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Comments

  • Laneygirl's picture
    Laneygirl
    Posted: Wed, 01/30/2019 05:05 pm

    What a wonderful story about the janitor/mystery artist! Blessed my socks off (and it's COLD!!) #polarvortex

  • LUANNE ASHE
    Posted: Fri, 02/01/2019 02:12 pm

    Luanne Ashe

    Just now · 

    Caring and Supportive. What a SIN! What a CRIME!
    Please learn to notice the emotional TRIGGERS your #MainstreamMedia uses to elicit negative emotional responses from their headlines.

  • Janet B
    Posted: Fri, 02/01/2019 04:12 pm

    I cannot help contrast the janitor's gratefulness for his job and talent to the next articles teacher's demands.  What a difference a thankful heart makes.

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