For years, Anita Wooten-Francis has been praying in her empty Brooklyn classroom. She’s been worshipping before and after students left, reading her Bible on her lunch break and leading other teachers in a prayer group – all the while, she says, taking care not to influence kids.
But the PS 224 assistant special-education teacher was fired last June and she believes her termination was the result of her religious beliefs.
According to the New York Post, she filed a lawsuit earlier this month in a Brooklyn federal court against the city, the DOE and the principal of the school, George Andrews, for religious discrimination and unspecified damages. She says Andrews teased her, saying he knew she and other Christians were praying to have the demons removed from his spirit, but that it was not working.
Wooten-Francis, 52, told the New York Post that Andrews told her, “You can’t be praying in my school,” referring to her as “the ringleader in praying.” Once, she says he criticized her for using the elevator rather than using the stairs, even though she has nerve damage in her hands and feet. When she objected, she says he asked her, “Why don’t you just pray?” and then laughed at her.
When she complained about how proceeds from a bake sale were being handled, and the way school administrators were using money from the Special Needs Funds to pay for lunches and parties, she claims she was fired on trumped-up charges accusing her of grabbing a kindergartner.
“Sometimes I will drop my Bible because my hands go numb and I have no feeling. How in the world am I going to grab a child?” she is quoted as saying in the article. “And if you look at the reports, it’s not even stated that the kids said themselves that I hit the kid.”
She believes she will be vindicated.
“I’m a Christian,” she said. “I believe Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior ... I know that I’m trusting God, and the truth will come out.”