Teacher Allegedly Discussed Sexual Orientation

Teacher Allegedly Discussed Sexual Orientation

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OREM, Utah (AP) -- Some parents of Orem High School sophomores have sought to pull their children from an honors English class after the teacher allegedly urged students to open their minds regarding sexual orientation and same-sex marriage.

Arthur and Michele Brady have asked the Alpine School District to investigate the conduct of teacher Ruth Stanton McAtee. A district spokeswoman said the allegations have not been corroborated but are still being investigated.

In a letter hand-delivered to the district office Monday, the couple quoted their daughter, Hannah, as saying McAtee told students she would focus on philosophy during the year "with the objective of getting them to open their minds, and, specifically, not to be judgmental as to sexual orientation."

The couple said the teacher urged students to open their minds on the acceptability of same-sex marriage, and that she told them not to tell their parents what had been said.

"I felt like she was trying to get us to drop our beliefs to get us to believe what she believed. It made me really uncomfortable," said Hannah Brady, 14. "She was telling us that we're not God, we can't judge people, and so we shouldn't be the ones to say, oh, same-sex marriage is wrong."

Hannah has been transferred to another teacher at her parents request. Another parent, Tamera Chipman, said she has had her son transferred to another class.

District spokeswoman Jerrilyn Mortensen said the principal has been interviewing students regarding the comments alleged in the Bradys' letter.

"The exact terminology the father claims has not surfaced time and again," Mortensen said. The teacher did question students why they believe what they believe, she said.

"We do not find her in any way encouraging or promoting any specific ideas," Mortensen said.

Regarding same-sex marriage, Mortensen said, "We can find no corroboration of that statement." The teacher did say that all relationships require work and that nothing works out like in fairy tales, Mortensen said.

"(McAtee's) statements are that she did not in any way tell students not to talk with their parents," Mortensen said.

A letter from McAtee and signed by Principal Jane Lindhout was sent home with students on Friday. In it, McAtee apologizes for any offense to students or parents.

"I believe that my role as an educator is to challenge my students so they can fulfill their greatest potential," the letter states. "It is not, in my opinion, to challenge them on what they believe. My hope is that as I challenge my students they will not only improve on skills already developed but they will discover and build upon those values and beliefs that they hold dear."

Arthur Brady called the letter a "non-apology apology" and said he was concerned with the district's "benign" response to the matter.

Mortensen said she believed the teacher was sincere in her apology.

Lindhout said McAtee was not interested in commenting on the matter. A phone call to McAtee was not returned.

Alpine Superintendent Vernon Henshaw said Orem High's principal had taken appropriate steps and reviewed the situation. The district will now be conducting its own review.

Mortensen said McAtee had taught at Lehi Junior High School and then in California. This is her first year teaching at Orem High.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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