An atheist teacher claims he was recently fired from his position at Middlebury Community Schools in Indiana due to his lack of religious beliefs, but school officials are arguing the 29-year-old educator was fired for his poor performance.
Teacher Kevin Pack recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that he was fired from his position as a German teacher at Northridge High School because he is an atheist and the school's principal, Gerald Rasler, is an evangelical Christian.
Pack told The Goshen News that expressing his atheism during the school year led to the recent termination of his work contract. The 29-year-old teacher has disputed the district's claims that he was fired due to poor work performance that included missing parent-teacher conferences, arriving at work late and leaving students unattended in the classroom.
The teacher provided various email exchanges between him and Rasler throughout the year in which Rasler makes religious references, including "Merry Christmas" and "May God grant you [safe] travels."
Pack points to one email in particular as indicative that he was fired for his atheist identity. The email, sent from Rasler, was in regards to snow days and read: "I have been asked: 'What if we have a snow day during finals? OR What is (sic) we have a two-hour delay?' Please get on your knees and pray for four good weather days during finals. You (sic) leadership team will be once again planning the what-if Plan B. Ras."
The German teacher reportedly responded to this email by writing: "Since I'm an atheist and a mystical sky daddy has nothing to do with weather, I won't be kneeling. I will be relying on science and the oftentimes (sic) in exact (sic) science of metereology (sic). The only relability (sic) we seem to get from weather reports is how often they're reliably wrong."
Pack's return email was distributed faculty-wide, and he believes his expression of his atheist beliefs is the reason he was terminated from his job at the end of this school year. Pack then filed an internal anti-religious harassment complaint with school officials, but his claim was deemed "not substantiated."
The school district has offered a different perspective on the situation, saying Pack was terminated due to his sub-par work performance. The district's Board of School Trustees voted unanimously 4-0 in April to terminate Pack's one-year contract, saying in a press release that it did so because Pack did not meet the expectations of the district regarding its teachers.
The press release also addresses the "rumors" regarding Peck's alleged atheism. "Many of the rumors spread and other reasons implied were simply false. Mr. Pack was merely a poor teacher, whose overall performance regressed throughout the school year and showed no potential for improvement."
Superintendent Jane Allen expounded on the reasons for Pack's firing to The Goshen News, saying the German teacher was let go because he left students unattended in the classroom, showed R-Rated films, lost students' work and missed parent-teacher conferences, among other incidences.
"Many of our patrons understand and support Middlebury Community Schools' reasoning in handling personnel matters in this manner. We thank you for the confidence that you have expressed and displayed in our school corporation. Rest assured that we take serious our obligation owed to you to educate and protect our community's young people," Allen added in the press release.