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Answers on Kearny HS teacher controversy

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Guest Paul
I might just take that bet.  I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the justice system can be a very funny thing.

Let's see, just some of the items you'll have to overcome;

Was Mr. P, a popular teacher, teaching religion as part of the history curriculum or merely engaged in an informal, off topic discussion of personal opinion? A discussion that was being led by your son.

Your son's history of seeking out these so called injustices, just looking for a fight.

How well defined is the seperation of church and state in public education? Most public school districts, including Kearny, include the historical aspects of world religions and religious figures in their curriculum. 

The teacher has some rights in this case also.  How about the fact that he and the students in the class were recorded without their knowledge.  Not very constitutional of you and the NJEA may have plenty to say on that.

Of course you won't be up against the district's attorney in this.  If it comes to it you'll probably be battling some NJEA pitbull lawyer and the district will have someone that fights these specific types of cases all of the time.

I could go on, so be careful about placing that bet.

Another attorney rule; Muddy up the water until nobody knows what's going on.

Then let's leave it for the system to sort out. Most if not all of the matters you raise are irrelevant in the law and/or wrong on the facts.

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Guest Guest
That is not an accurate characterization. If my own words ruin my career, whose fault is it?

So you're ok with the setting up, leading questions, and recording without permission?

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Guest Guest
Because misinformation must be corrected, certainly on important issues like these. We think there is also a value to making it clear that imparting misinformation will not be allowed to stand, especially when that misinformation is part and parcel of an agenda that is inconsistent the school's purposes. Zealots must understand that they may not use agencies of government as a soapbox for their agendas.

We appreciate that the school cannot monitor everything to perfection, but at least a best effort should have been made. That's fair, don't you think?

How is the one punitive and the other flawed? Most respectfully, I don't see that at all.

Thank you, however, for your courtesy.

I'm confused, who is the zealot in this? :lol:

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Guest Guest
That is not an accurate characterization. No one forced this teacher to violate the Constitution, undermine the science curriculum or lie about it. He did all of that of his own volition.

So Paul, what would be an accurate characterization? Mr. P stood up in front of the class and started beating his bible Jimmy Swaggert style.

As a malpractice attorney I think you know how horrible someone can be made to look with a few leading questions.

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Then let's leave it for the system to sort out. Most if not all of the matters you raise are irrelevant in the law and/or wrong on the facts.

That's fair enough. I hope you keep us posted on the outcome of the situation.

For now, lets all be put on notice that you and Matt have laid down a fine line for all of us to walk, including you and yours. Remember, life has a funny way of biting you on the ass when you least expect it.

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The first recording was on the third day of class, after it became obvious that the teacher was intentionally proselytizinig.

No books has been given yet. This is a level one class, right? It was a time of different discussions. Everyone could express their own views. Including your son.

At all time your son participated in the class discussion and enjoyed them. By the way, did your son ever express his concern with Mr Paszkiewicz in class or after class? Did you ever called Mr. Paszkiewicz? Did you ever e-mail or try to speak with Mr Paszkiewicz? Did you visit him during Parent Conferences? I'm just asking you because that's what concerned parents do, they don't run to the media.

You are just affraid that what you believe in might just be challegend.

You and your son should think of others before going around causing trouble. Not everyone believe the same way do. This is a free country. Religion, if you like or not is part of our history. There are things you and your son can't change.

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Guest Guest
Even if it was true, how is that your concern?

It's not my concern, by the way you're suppose to be fielding qusetions that are decent with appropriate answers, so don't answer a legitimate question with a question.

If you were a good parent you would not have "left it up to Matt" to handle.

With this matter being as serious as you make it you should have been in attendance!

Than maybe none of this would be happening. You might have been satisfied with the results of the meeting. I fail to believe that you, as an attorney (not just a parent) would allow your son "to handle" such a terrible injustice.

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Guest a proud american
Then let's leave it for the system to sort out. Most if not all of the matters you raise are irrelevant in the law and/or wrong on the facts.

Paul, let me first thank you for your postings. I read the blog and tried to listen to the tapes but being computerr challenged was unable to. At first I thought that Matthew was wrong to do what he did but by your answers I am able to get a much clearer picture. Sadly, there are teachers who try to influence students into their way of thinking. I don't particularly care that this individual teaches sunday school but I do care when he, in the name of education attempts to influence vulnerable kids into believing his teachings however popular the teacher is. What I would ask though is the name of the court case that has been cited and if I can get it on Thomas.Gov. I know it must be hard for you and your family since standing up for principle seems foreign to some but I respect it and hope that this case can get resolved if all parties commit to it. Thanks.

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Guest Paul
No books has been given yet. This is a level one class, right? It was a time of different discussions. Everyone could express their own views. Including your son.

At all time your son participated in the class discussion and enjoyed them. By the way, did your son ever express his concern with Mr Paszkiewicz in class or after class? Did you ever called Mr. Paszkiewicz? Did you ever e-mail or try to speak with Mr Paszkiewicz? Did you visit him during Parent Conferences? I'm just asking you because that's what concerned parents do, they don't run to the media.

You are just affraid that what you believe in might just be challegend.

You and your son should think of others before going around causing trouble. Not everyone believe the same way do. This is a free country. Religion, if you like or not is part of our history. There are things you and your son can't change.

The teacher does not have a right to express his religious beliefs in a public school classroom. The students do, but he does not. Whether you like it or you don't, that is the law.

Given the extreme nature of the offenses and the obvious intent to persist in this behavior, we concluded that there was no point in taking this to Paszkiewicz. He would have stopped in that class, perhaps, and then persisted in the behavior. Or perhaps he would merely have toned it down. Either way, the conduct demanded that it be reported over his head.

"You and your son should think of others before going around causing trouble. Not everyone believe the same way do. This is a free country." Listen to yourself. I ask again: What if this was a Muslim teacher telling Christian children they are going to hell. Would you be defending it?

Ours is a nation with a long history of religious practice, coupled with separation of church and state. You can't have the one and forget the other without completely changing our founding principles.

Finally, if we were afraid what we believe might be challenged, then why did I open this thread to invite questions? As for Matthew, his was hardly behavior designed to stay below the radar screen. Which side of the argument are you making today?

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Guest Paul
So you're ok with the setting up, leading questions, and recording without permission?

What do you mean by "setting up?" How do you set someone up in a discussion he started himself? Are you saying the teacher was somehow forced to say what he said? Isn't he supposed to be in charge of his classroom? I can't think of a single teacher I ever had who could have been "set up" in this way, because all my teachers knew better than to do this. If a student asks a teacher what are his favorite sexual positions, should he answer, or should he say the question is not appropriate? This whole business of "setting up" the teacher is nonsense. No court would give it any credence, and just in terms of simple adult responsibility, it makes no sense. I have clients who ask me questions I can't answer; so I don't answer them, and I explain why I can't. It's simple professional responsibility, and it applies to a teacher (who is in a position of public trust) just as much as any other professional. If you were a teacher and a student asked you a question you knew you couldn't appropriately answer, what would you do? Answer the question and then complain that a 16-year-old set you up? Don't you think you'd look more than a little silly pointing to a 16-year-old and whining "he made me do it!" If that's the teacher's defense, his maturity is suspect. So what is your point? Please be specific.

What do you mean by "leading questions?" Please be specific.

If a teacher who is speaking to 25 young minds is ashamed or reluctant to have his words known outside the classroom, he should not be saying them inside the classroom. One of my former colleagues in the New York bar was surreptitiously recorded by his client as he was asking her for oral sex in part payment of his fee. Do you have a problem with her recording him and nailing his behind to the wall? Didn't he get exactly what he deserved? If you don't have a problem with that, what's the legal and ethical difference compared to this situation? We would agree that the attorney's conduct is worse, but that is a distinction of degree, not of category or analysis. In each case the conduct is legally prohibited. So what is the relevant difference, if any?

The New Jersey legislature has made a policy decision, along with 37 other states, that the benefits of a one-party consent rule outweigh any costs. I think it's obvious that I agree with that both ethically and legally. You can disagree with the legislative decision, but on what basis do you argue that violating the most fundamental law of our land is OK, while abiding by the law is wrong? That's what you're saying. How can you defend it rationally? Isn't this just about the fact that you don't like the outcome? Let's be fair here. You want to hold us to a standard. No problem, but hold yourself to the same standard. Can you do it?

You see, your problem is that you want to blame the student for the teacher's conduct. That might fly among people who will jump at any excuse to defend a popular teacher, but it won't fly unless you've already made up your mind in advance which side you wish to defend.

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Guest Paul
So Paul, what would be an accurate characterization? Mr. P stood up in front of the class and started beating his bible Jimmy Swaggert style.

As a malpractice attorney I think you know how horrible someone can be made to look with a few leading questions.

Yes, the poor, helpless teacher. Totally helpless against this wily 16-year-old in his own classroom where he isn't sitting on a witness stand, is supposedly in control as the only adult in the room, and doesn't have to answer any question he knows is inappropriate.

He preached religion because that is what he wanted to do from the moment he walked into that classroom. So your analogy is not well-taken, or to put it more colloquially: Give me a break.

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Guest Paul
It's not my concern, by the way you're suppose to be fielding qusetions that are decent with appropriate answers, so don't answer a legitimate question with a question.

If you were a good parent you would not have "left it up to Matt" to handle.

With this matter being as serious as you make it you should have been in attendance!

Than maybe none of this would be happening. You might have been satisfied with the results of the meeting. I fail to believe that you, as an attorney (not just a parent) would allow your son "to handle" such a terrible injustice.

I agreed to answer appropriate questions germane to the issue at hand. How I parent my son is not such a question, and I will not respond to any questions along those lines.

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Guest Paul
Paul, let me first thank you for your postings. I read the blog and tried to listen to the tapes but being computerr challenged was unable to. At first I thought that Matthew was wrong to do what he did but by your answers I am able to get a much clearer picture. Sadly, there are teachers who try to influence students into their way of thinking. I don't particularly care that this individual teaches sunday school  but I do care when he, in the name of education attempts to influence vulnerable kids into believing his teachings however popular the teacher is. What I would ask though is the name of the court case that has been cited and if I can get it on Thomas.Gov. I know it must be hard for you and your family since standing up for principle seems foreign to some but I respect it and hope that this case can get resolved if all parties commit to it. Thanks.

From one proud American to another: Thank you. I am gratified to know someone is listening with open ears and an open mind. Comments like yours make this effort worth it. I truly believe that if we continue to stifle dissent in our country, America will cease to be America. What is it that threatens people so about those of us who see the world differently?

One of the problems that has barely been touched in these discussions is the absolutely horrid pedagogy in the classes that were recorded. These sessions amount to intellectual bullying, made all the more insidious and dangerous by this teacher's popularity. This is a thread I'm picking up from your comments.

I'm not sure what case you're referring to, but if you mean the 1962 Supreme Court case prohibiting teacher-led or officially sanctioned prayer in public schools, it is Engel v. Vitale. You can find it at http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/f...nlaw/engel.html

The other case that was mentioned, resulting in an excellent opinion by a federal judge in Pennsylvania, was the case tried in Dover, PA last autumn. In that case, proponents of "intelligent design" were trying to skirt around previous court decisions holding the promotion of creationism (as an alternative to evolution) in public schools to be unconstitutional. That was Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. You can find it at http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/f...nlaw/engel.html

It is an excellent read, and I think non-attorneys could understand it. Hey, if you have a question, I'm around on this page for awhile.

By the way, there are nearly complete transcripts of the 9/14 class session available online. I can't vouch for 100% accuracy, but they're pretty close. It was at http://www.dranger.com/classtranscript.html

last time I checked.

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Guest Paul
I am Paul LaClair, father of Matthew LaClair. I am opening this topic to invite all concerned, in whatever way they may be concerned, to ask questions and engage in a respectful and thoughtful discussion of this incident. I may post threads myself to initiate topics.

I am doing this because if people are going to discuss this, it should be discussed in a thoughtful and respectful way. There is no call for the vicious attacks that have been publicly posted against a young man whose actions were not motivated by self-interest, but by a passionate commitment to our Constitution, separation of church and state, the integrity and value of science, the quality of education and the rule of law. With all due respect to those who have presumed to know Matthew's motives --- who have not been the least bit respectful in some cases --- I am certain that I know him better than you do.

All appropriate and respectful questions will be answered. All personal attacks will be ignored.

Freedom of speech: In other venues, some have asked whether the prohibition against a teacher expressing his religious opinions in a public school classroom violates his free speech rights under the First Amendment. In other words, are Mr. Paszkiewicz's free speech rights being violated by restricting what he may say in the classroom? The answer is no, and I will explain why.

Freedom of speech does not mean that we have the right to say whatever we like, wherever and whenever we would like to say it. Consider a couple examples.

When I try a case on behalf of a client, would I be exercising my freedom of speech in launching into a long explanation of my religious or political beliefs during my closing argument? Of course not, I would be neglecting my duty to my client to promote my personal agenda. It would be a breach of my fiduciary duty to my client, and it would be malpractice. The same with a teacher in a public school. When he voluntarily takes that job, he is obligated to know that his job is to teach within the bounds of the Constitution. He is not being paid to express his opinions. He is there for our purposes, not his. That includes not evangelizing the students to his religious views.

Or assume that I wish to address Paszkiewicz's Baptist congregation at their Sunday service. Let's say I walk into their church and demand the pulpit. Are they required to give it to me? Of course not. How about if I write them a letter asking for five minutes of their time any Sunday in the next six months. Doesn't matter. They're still not required to give me their pulpit, not for a second. At the Board of Education meeting, I was allowed to speak, but at five minutes I was told my time was up. That's fair, and if they had wanted to do it, they could have declined to give me any time at all.

My guess is that Paszkiewicz's defenders are cheering these examples now that the shoe is on the other foot (mine). The problem with that is that we are a nation of laws, not men. The force of law is based on principles codified in our written laws and handed down by the courts in the common law. It is not, and cannot be, based on popularity or the whim of the moment.

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Guest Paul
I am Paul LaClair, father of Matthew LaClair. I am opening this topic to invite all concerned, in whatever way they may be concerned, to ask questions and engage in a respectful and thoughtful discussion of this incident. I may post threads myself to initiate topics.

I am doing this because if people are going to discuss this, it should be discussed in a thoughtful and respectful way. There is no call for the vicious attacks that have been publicly posted against a young man whose actions were not motivated by self-interest, but by a passionate commitment to our Constitution, separation of church and state, the integrity and value of science, the quality of education and the rule of law. With all due respect to those who have presumed to know Matthew's motives --- who have not been the least bit respectful in some cases --- I am certain that I know him better than you do.

All appropriate and respectful questions will be answered. All personal attacks will be ignored.

Misinforming students about the purposes of public education: One of the statements Paszkiewicz made that really frosted my cake was this one about the purposes of public education. It was in response to a question by Matthew after Paszkiewicz had complained about the public education system. (This may be paraphrased slightly):

Matthew: "isn't the whole point of public school so that you can separate personal beliefs from teachers and administrators from non-religious, you know non-religious teachings during school, like, school care and all that”

Paszkiewicz: “No, no the purpose of public education is to provide free education for people that couldn't afford it. Period.”

Contrary to what some students have said, Paszkiewicz does not always qualify his views with a statement that he is only expressing his opinion. Like several others, this comment was dogmatic and absolute, punctuated by the word “period” emphatically placed at the end.

Beyond that, Paszkiewicz is wrong, just plain wrong. The United States Supreme Court has specifically held that the purposes of public education include the promotion of democratic values, and it is clear that they also include exactly what Matthew said: That students are not to be taught personal religious beliefs of teachers and school administrators, but are taught in accordance with the principle of church-state separation. That is exactly what Engel v Vitale says, and yet after complaining about that very decision, Paszkiewicz practically denied its existence. See the Edwards case decided by the US Supreme Court, which holds: "[t]he public school is at once the symbol of our democracy and the most pervasive means for promoting our common destiny. In no activity of the State is it more vital to keep out divisive forces than in its schools...." Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203, 231, 68 S.Ct. 461, 475, 92 L.Ed. 649 (1948) (opinion of Frankfurter, J.).

So to the extent that Paszkiewicz may have been making a statement about the law, he is wrong. He does not speak for fifty state legislatures, most or all of which have determined the purposes of public education to be far beyond his narrow and incorrect statement, and he certainly does not speak for the US Supreme Court.

To the extent that he his comments touched on US History (supposedly the subject of the class), Matthew was right and he was wrong. As a historical matter, the purposes of public education are more in keeping with what Matthew suggested in his question. So what am I to think when my 16-year-old son knows more about this fundamental point relevant to US history than the teacher? The isn’t a matter of opinion. The teacher was just plain wrong. What kind of confidence can I have in his ability to present US history accurately when he lets his personal biases interfere with historical fact?

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Guest Guest
Paul stated:

Notwithstanding that, we gave both the teacher and the administration multiple opportunities to rectify the matter privately. The first step was a letter by Matthew to the principal requesting an apology from the teacher and corrections. The teacher's response was to stop the behavior (he had no choice), but no apology. On the contrary, he started making remarks in class that were directed against Matthew, though at that time none of the other students knew what had happened. All they knew was that something was different. Had the teacher responded appropriately and had appropriate corrections been made, that would have ended the matter. Unfortunately, what he did was claim that Matthew had taken his remarks out of context, which as the world now knows is not true.

My question:

You state above that your son wrote a letter to the principal requesting and apology and corrections.  Then you fully acknowledge that the teacher's response was to STOP THE BEHAVIOR.  Well, if he STOPPED THE BEHAVIOR, it would seem that the bulk of your significant ends were met, so why continue with the religion based concerns?  It would seem that your concerns at that point should have been student-teacher relations based having nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with whether the teacher was singling out, or otherwise mistreating, your son.  I know that you wanted an open-classroom correction and other oversight to avoid future issues (I don't know how you could even begin to monitor everything - or where the money would come from in an over-strapped budget).  But with the former being not substantially more than punitive, and with the latter fundamentally flawed - why continue on the religion issue but for an application of leverage?

THAT DIDN'T GIVE MATT AND HIS DAD ENOUGH ATTENTION!

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Guest Guest
That's fair enough.  I hope you keep us posted on the outcome of the situation.

For now, lets all be put on notice that you and Matt have laid down a fine line for all of us to walk, including you and yours.  Remember, life has a funny way of biting you on the ass when you least expect it.

IN GOD WE TRUST!!!!

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Guest Guest
Paul, let me first thank you for your postings. I read the blog and tried to listen to the tapes but being computerr challenged was unable to. At first I thought that Matthew was wrong to do what he did but by your answers I am able to get a much clearer picture. Sadly, there are teachers who try to influence students into their way of thinking. I don't particularly care that this individual teaches sunday school  but I do care when he, in the name of education attempts to influence vulnerable kids into believing his teachings however popular the teacher is. What I would ask though is the name of the court case that has been cited and if I can get it on Thomas.Gov. I know it must be hard for you and your family since standing up for principle seems foreign to some but I respect it and hope that this case can get resolved if all parties commit to it. Thanks.

Perhaps the teacher was showing the students critical thinking by citing opposing viewpoints! In general discussions all have something to learn, we all do not have to agree. That's the beauty of an education in a "free" country. I pledge allegiance to the FLAG .... one nation under GOD....?!?! That's right your son doesn't do this either... it only gives us the right to protest what we feel is wrong or even "burn the flag" (which I do not agree with) without reprisals!!!

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So Paul, looks like you are having too much with this situation. You started this blog because in the other one almost no one agrees with what you and your family did? Or maybe you just want people to think like you do? Very ironic, isn't it? Leave Mr. Paszkiewicz alone!!!! And yes, I am shouting! So what? By the way, if you want your son to be respected you need to teach him to respect others. You know, not secretly record classes or disrespect this country by refusing to stand to the falg solute or simply ignoring what our family memebers who went to war so the LaClairs are protected. Give me a break! Don't talk about respect when you have none. One more thing: I love president Bush, I love America and I love GOD..please don't sue me...

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Guest Carla
Actually, from what I've heard and read, he did. It was Mr. P who refused to discuss this in a thoughtful and respectul way and chose to lie instead...

Oh Mr.P lied? How do you know that? Let me guest..because Matthew told the media that he did? How about asking the two witness who were present at the time? Ask the principal or the chairman of the history department. How can someone trust a boy who records a class secretly? And then Paul talks about respect? Give me a break! I am just so glad that the people who are supporting Mr. P know exactly what happened and not just heard it from the news. As far as I know, the LaClairs did all the talking...So, try to look for the real facts before posting a comment and accusing someone. We will all appreciate that! And please stop asking Paul questions...this is pathetic! He is enjoying this situation way too much!

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Guest Paul
From one proud American to another: Thank you. I am gratified to know someone is listening with open ears and an open mind. Comments like yours make this effort worth it. I truly believe that if we continue to stifle dissent in our country, America will cease to be America. What is it that threatens people so about those of us who see the world differently?

One of the problems that has barely been touched in these discussions is the absolutely horrid pedagogy in the classes that were recorded. These sessions amount to intellectual bullying, made all the more insidious and dangerous by this teacher's popularity. This is a thread I'm picking up from your comments.

I'm not sure what case you're referring to, but if you mean the 1962 Supreme Court case prohibiting teacher-led or officially sanctioned prayer in public schools, it is Engel v. Vitale. You can find it at http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/f...nlaw/engel.html

The other case that was mentioned, resulting in an excellent opinion by a federal judge in Pennsylvania, was the case tried in Dover, PA last autumn. In that case, proponents of "intelligent design" were trying to skirt around previous court decisions holding the promotion of creationism (as an alternative to evolution) in public schools to be unconstitutional. That was Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. You can find it at http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/f...nlaw/engel.html

It is an excellent read, and I think non-attorneys could understand it. Hey, if you have a question, I'm around on this page for awhile.

By the way, there are nearly complete transcripts of the 9/14 class session available online. I can't vouch for 100% accuracy, but they're pretty close. It was at http://www.dranger.com/classtranscript.html

last time I checked.

Correction: You can find Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District at

http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf

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Guest Guest
I am Paul LaClair, father of Matthew LaClair. I am opening this topic to invite all concerned, in whatever way they may be concerned, to ask questions and engage in a respectful and thoughtful discussion of this incident. I may post threads myself to initiate topics.

I am doing this because if people are going to discuss this, it should be discussed in a thoughtful and respectful way. There is no call for the vicious attacks that have been publicly posted against a young man whose actions were not motivated by self-interest, but by a passionate commitment to our Constitution, separation of church and state, the integrity and value of science, the quality of education and the rule of law. With all due respect to those who have presumed to know Matthew's motives --- who have not been the least bit respectful in some cases --- I am certain that I know him better than you do.

All appropriate and respectful questions will be answered. All personal attacks will be ignored.

Bigots and hypocrites of Kearny, unite! You can bet your bottom dollar that if this was a Muslim teacher telling their Christian kids they belong in hell, NASA would be tracking his progress through the solar system after he'd been kicked out through the roof.

If the defenders of this teacher's rants don't have the sense to be embarrassed at what they're writing, what can possibly be said to them? Quite obviously, nothing.

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When I first heard about this I took Mr. P's side. I thought Matthew was dead wrong. Then I listened to the tapes, heard from his father (Paul) and really tried to think about the situation with an open mind. I never had Mr. P when I was in high school, so I cant comment on his teachings. However, putting aside the fact that he spoke about religion in his class. He lied, thats all that needs to be said. He is a role model, he is not only supposed to teach the kids history but also he is an example of how adults are to act, and his actions are apalling. Its seems as if most of you expect Matthew to act like a 35yr(?) old teacher, and its ok for that teacher to act like a 16 year old. I think Matthew, and his parents are extremely brave. Whether you agree or not, Im sure that most people would not be brave enough to stand up against the masses and do what they think is right. I apolgize if this post is a jumble of thoughts. So Paul, God bless you, and keep up the good fight.

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Guest Guest

Do you people honestly believe this could be fun for a parent. Do you think its fun for a 16 year old boy to be ostracized from his peers? If thats your idea of fun then you have issues. It seems to me that Paul and Matthew have done everything they could do to solve this outside of the public domain. This happened months ago and yet we are just hearing about it now. This is just another example of how badly this town is run, from the town hall to the BOE. Its ridiculous. Paul, if you have read other threads on this site about a majority of different topics...you will realize that most of the people who come here...dont have much to contribute to an intelligent conversation.

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