(Source: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
A teacher in Illinois is being criticized after he reportedly told one of his students she could only write on the topic of abortion for an assignment if she wrote from a pro-abortion perspective.
Abigail Cornejo, a sophomore at Palatine High School in Palatine, Illinois recently asked her teacher if she could write on abortion for a class assignment that asked students to write on a controversial issue. The teacher, David Valentino, reportedly told the student she could not write on the topic of abortion because he's read too many papers on the issue and doesn't care anymore. When Cornejo reportedly pressed Valentino about writing on abortion, the teacher said ultimately she could write on the subject if she did so from a pro-abortion perspective.
"My English class is doing a controversial issue research paper," Cornejo told LifeNews in a recent interview. "My English teacher, Mr. David Valentino originally told the class we may not do abortion, euthanasia, or legalization or marijuana. I asked why we couldn't do infanticide, abortion and he replied with, 'I've read too many papers on it. I don't care anymore.'"
After Valentino continued to refuse, Cornejo pressed the teacher as to why she wasn't allowed to write on the topic, to which the teacher reportedly replied, according to the student: "It's an ethical debate. I don't have to have a reason you aren't doing abortion."
The teacher then reportedly added: "If you write a paper on abortion I will not read it and you will get an F. This is an essential writing assignment and if you get an F you will fail this class and have to retake it in the summer or next year. It's your choice I hope you make the right decision."
Ultimately, Cornejo says the teacher told her that she could write on abortion "if [she wrote] for it.'"
Cornejo's recent incident with her English teacher is one of many examples of educators not understanding the First Amendment rights of their students. Earlier in 2013, a 10-year-old student at an elementary school near Memphis, Tenn. was forced to re-do an assignment after she wrote about God as her idol. The student also had to take her initial assignment off campus with her, and her second choice of Michael Jackson as an idol was approved over God. The school later released a statement saying the teacher who oversaw the student's assignment misunderstood the school's policy regarding religious expression.
Jeremy Dys, an attorney for the Liberty Institute, added in a press release that teachers are often confused about First Amendment rights in the classroom. "Young teachers [..] have been barraged with so much false information for so long that they are afraid that a 10-year-old student's coloring assignment might violate the First Amendment."
In another recent case, an elementary school in Texas banned Christmas trees and the colors red and green from an upcoming holiday party at school, explaining the actions would help to avoid offending any non-Christian students or parents. The school's PTA group made the decision despite a state law that allows schools to engage in customary holiday activities without reprimand. The school's principal reportedly told the PTA members that because each family donates to the holiday party but not every family is religious, it would be best to avoid any religious references at the student celebration.