The Texas teacher responsible for the controversial suspension of the Christian high school student that spoke out in class about his belief that homosexuality was wrong returned to work today after being on administrative leave since Sept. 23.
Dakota Ary, a freshman at Western Hills High School, was disciplined by Kristopher Franks, who was teaching a lesson on religious beliefs in Germany. Franks overhead Ary say, “I’m a Christian and, to me, being homosexual is wrong.”
Upon hearing the comment, Franks, who is openly gay, wrote Dakota an infraction and sent him to the principal’s office on Sept. 20.
Interim school superintendent Walter Dansby notified Forth Worth Independent School District trustees late Thursday that the incident had been investigated and was now resolved.
According to Franks' attorney, Melissa Mozingo, the teacher has been the target of many harassing emails since the incident.
"He does want his side out there, but he cannot make comments due to the ongoing investigation,” Mozingo, who works for the United Educators Association, told the Star Telegram.
She added, "But he's doing great. He's strong, and he has an effective support base that's helping him get through this process.”
According to previous reports by The Christian Post, Ary commented to his friend about his Christian beliefs and Franks took him to the front office. His mother was contacted while at work and was told that her son would have a referral and two-day suspension because of his “inappropriate” comments.
“When I got the phone call saying Dakota disrupted the class by making an inappropriate comment, I knew that just wasn’t right,” his mother, Holly Pope, told CP. “Dakota doesn’t do that. It’s out of his character.”
According to reports, just one week prior to Ary’s suspension, the German teacher posted a picture of two men kissing on the chalkboard in front of the classroom.
“He told the students that this was homosexuality and that they needed to accept it,” said Ary's attorney, Matt Krause. Some students protested and when the teacher left the classroom, one student tore down the poster.
Commenting on the poster, Pope said, “He’s (Dakota) been in church his whole life. Just being a Christian doesn’t mean you surrounds yourself with just Christians. He goes to a public school, so he will be faced with things he doesn’t believe in or feel is right. That’s fine. For a picture, I didn’t feel it was necessary to raise alarm.”
Krause also asserted to NBC that students shouldn’t be forced to shed their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse doors.
"And he wasn't disrupting class, he wasn't hurting or harassing anybody. He was just stating his religious beliefs in a benign, non-hostile way," he noted.
Matt Krause, with the Liberty Counsel, has demanded full vindication with a full retraction of the suspension.
According to the Liberty Counsel, the discipline referral form says the comment was out of context, even though the lesson for the day was on religious beliefs.
Franks charged Dakota with “possible bullying” and indicated, “it is wrong to make such a statement in public school.”
After Liberty Counsel sent a letter to the school, officials and the school district reversed the in-school suspension, removed the incident from the teen’s record and placed Franks on administrative leave with pay.
Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, commented: “We are pleased with the school’s response thus far. The teacher clearly crossed the line and should apologize publicly to Dakota.”
“It is intolerable for the teacher to ridicule the religious beliefs of students in front of class. This teacher should not force his views about homosexuality upon students. Teachers cannot use their position to bully students and humiliate them in front of their peers,” Staver stated.
The school district did not comment on the incident, as per district policy. Franks has been a teacher with the district since 2006.
The Liberty Counsel is a nonprofit public interest law firm and ministry that provides free legal assistance in defense of “Christian religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family."