Monday, May 16, 2005

What constitutes a fireable offense?

I've been waiting to see if this story would hit the blogoshpere, and what reaction to it would be:
Pregnancy cost teacher her job

[South Bend] Tribune Staff Writer

BERRIEN SPRINGS -- At a meeting last week with school officials, Christine John was congratulated on her March marriage, John says.

Then, said the first-year kindergarten teacher at the Village Seventh-day Adventist Elementary School, she was asked why she was four months along in her pregnancy when she had been married just two months before.

John said the meeting ended when she was told her services were no longer necessary.

In a statement prepared by the Niles-based Edwin Bertram agency, she said she wasn't allowed to retrieve her belongings or return to the school during regular school hours.

"I was very surprised. Shocked,'' she said Tuesday. "I had no clue what the meeting was about.''

Now, the 24-year-old John is considering legal action. School officials said John wasn't fired but was placed on administrative leave.

Michael Nickless, communication director for the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, released the following statement:

"The Seventh-day Adventist Church operates nearly 50 Christian schools in the state of Michigan. In these schools, we follow the teachings of Jesus as understood by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

"Each of our teachers is issued a 'Ministry of Teaching' license. In our school system, our teachers are expected to be a positive spiritual example for our congregations and youth.

"When she (John) chose behavior contrary to those values, she was placed on administrative leave. Even though policy allows for immediate dismissal, out of compassion, her present contract continues to be honored and she will receive full pay and benefits until the contract expires.''

John said her contract with the school system runs through June 8. She questioned why she was singled out.

"Working there, I've seen a lot of things that were done that were against our policy and those people haven't been fired,'' she said.

A 2003 graduate of Seventh-day Adventist Andrews University in Berrien Springs, John, 24, said she hadn't encountered any disciplinary problems with her job until last week.

The Stevensville resident said she and her husband, whom she didn't identify, had been dating two-and-a-half years.

After she became pregnant, she said she talked to school Principal John Chen about taking a maternity leave.

"I never tried to hide the situation,'' she said.

At her meeting with Chen and two other administrators from the Lake Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, John said she was told premarital sex is an act strictly forbidden by the school system and the Seventh-day Adventist religion.

Whether she has legal recourse or not, she said she'll look next for a job "with people who accept me.''

It'll most likely be with a public school system, she added, rather than a private one.

And finally, someone has picked it up. The unabashedly liberal found it and posted it without much comment. Somewhat surprisingly, it was the post that generated the most reader comments over the course of the weekend. Most of the comments fell into two categories: readers who took this as an example of Fundamentalist religion further encroaching on privacy rights, and readers who said that this was not a good example of that trend, since the teacher was at a private religious school and therefore was aware that certain activities (like pre-marital pregnancy) were precluded.

In my opinion, Mrs. John knew that she was going to be in trouble, which is why she told the principal ahead of time. I certainly hope she wasn't asked by the school board "why she was four months along in her pregnancy when she had been married just two months before." If so, that's an awful way to approach things. But in the end, the church and the school have the right (others might say the responsibility) to avoid situations such as this one.

A question that arose from the discussion at Pandagon: One poster wondered if the situation would have been different if the teacher were a man. I would hope it would not be different, but I'm not sure. The Adventist church is paternalistic enough that the teacher might have been handled differently (read: not fired) if it were a man.

Another blog that has picked up the story:
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