Local News

Teacher: Wake Has Instructional Double Standard

Posted May 29, 2007 6:10 p.m. EDT
Updated May 30, 2007 9:04 a.m. EDT

— A Wake County high school teacher calls himself the subject of a witch hunt after he was suspended and then reassigned for inviting a Christian speaker who passed out religious tracts to students.

Robert Escamilla invited evangelist Kamil Solomon, head of Kamil International Ministries Organization, to speak to his social studies class on Feb. 16. The group says it is devoted to "teaching the truth about Islam." Solomon handed out pamphlets highly critical of Islam that included the heading "Why Women Should Not Marry Muslims."

After parents complained about the presentation, Escamilla was suspended with pay. Last week, the tenured teacher was transfered to Mary E. Phillips High School, an alternative school for problem students.

Superintendent Del Burns said in a statement that classroom instruction should never denigrate any religion or culture or try to proselytize students.

“Absolutely under no circumstances will we allow proselytizing or the denigration of any culture or religion in our schools. All students in the Wake County Public School System should be able to come to school each day feeling respected and supported,” Burns said.

“The presentation of the guest speaker at Enloe was unacceptable and very regrettable," the statement continued. "I apologize to members of our Muslim community who were understandably concerned and offended by this incident.”

In a Tuesday interview with WRAL, Escamilla said the school district has a double standard about instruction that undercuts any open exchange of ideas.

"Why I can have a satanist bring in a satanic bible, the cover of which is made of human flesh, and no problem, we're just out there?" he says, noting he has invited speakers from a range of religions to speak to his class over the years.

"Yet somebody presents a strong position that they believe in favor of Jesus Christ, and all of a sudden, all hell starts breaking loose. I don't get it," he said. "If that becomes too touchy for some people so that it is politically incorrect and unacceptable in a public education setting, then I think that's a tragedy."

Noting that four other Enloe High teachers whose classes participated in Solomon's presentation weren't disciplined although they never expressed any discomfort with the class, Escamilla said he is considering legal action against the school district.

Still, despite his suspension and transfer, he said he wouldn't change his decision to allow Solomon to speak to his class.

"Yes, it was controversial. Yes, some people disagreed. Yes, some people were upset about it. Let's work with that. Let's turn it into a positive experience," he said.