Holy water allegedly sprinkled on atheist teacher PDF Print E-mail
Written by ELGIN JONES   
Friday, 21 May 2010
leslie-rainer-and-djuna-robinson_web.jpgPOMPANO BEACH — Two teachers accused of sprinkling holy water onto an avowed atheist colleague have been removed from the classroom, and may be fired.

The teacher who was allegedly sprinkled filed a complaint with the Broward County school district, which is investigating the incident as an act of bullying.

At the center of the investigation are Blanche Ely High School reading teachers Leslie Rainer and Djuna Robinson, who profess that they are Christians.  They are accused of sprinkling holy water onto fellow teacher Schandra Tompkinsel Rodriguez.

On March 11, Rodriguez was in her classroom discussing her disbelief in God and the Bible with students when the alleged incident took place.

Rainer and Robinson deny the allegations. Robinson’s lawyer, Johnny L. McCray Jr., said he has statements from several students who witnessed the incident and who confirm their version of events.

Rainer declined comment when contacted. Robinson referred all calls to McCray.

Rodriguez did not respond to requests for comment.

“This letter is to inform you that your administrative reassignment location is being changed,” wrote David Golt, executive director of the Broward School District’s Professional Standards & Special Investigative Unit (SIU), in memorandums issued to Rainer and Robinson on April 23. “You are not to return to Blanche Ely High School unless so directed by me.”

Asked to confirm the details, Golt told the South Florida Times that, “It is actively being investigated, and therefore, I can’t release any information or discuss it.”

Violation of state anti-bullying law allows for criminal penalties, but Golt said the district is not conducting a criminal investigation.

Nevertheless, Rainer has been stripped of her post, demoted as director of the school’s reading department. Both Rainer and Robinson are the subjects of hallway gossip after they were escorted out of their classrooms in April, in front of students, and were ordered not to return to school grounds.

But McCray said the sprinkling of holy water never happened.

“There was never anything sprayed or sprinkled on anyone or anything, absolutely nothing,” McCray explained. “This is a total fabrication being made against good teachers.”

He continued: “What did take place was done in front of a classroom full of students. I have interviewed a number of them, and they all say there was only a friendly discussion, no water. My client made a joking comment and held up a bottle of perfume from the doorway, and that was it. There are other issues that have motivated this complaint, which have nothing to do with any misconduct, and those facts will come out.”

Anti-bullying law

School officials are investigating the complaint, citing a state anti-bullying law that is aimed at protecting students from harassment and violence from other students.

“As per the requirements of the Jeffrey Johnson [sic] Stand Up For All Students Act and the Broward County Schools’ Anti-Bullying Policy 5.9, this letter is being sent to address the outcome of the complaint of alleged bullying/harassment filed against you on March 22, 2010 regarding incidents on or before March 11, 2010, that alleged that you upbraided and embarrassed a teacher at your school,” Ely Principal Karlton O. Johnson wrote in an April 12 notice to Rainer and Robinson.

Known as “Jeff’s Law,” the Jeffrey Johnston Act was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008. It came three years after its inspiration, Jeffrey Johnston, a student at Trafalgar Middle School in Cape Coral, Florida, committed suicide in 2005. He had been bullied by other students over the Internet.

The law applies to students and employees alike at public schools. Among other things, it prohibits intimidation, harassment, physical or cyber bullying, and requires school staff to report all incidents. Violating the law could lead to progressive discipline, up to termination, and possibly criminal consequences.

Alleged sprinkling

Holy water is sterile water or oil that Christians use in prayer rituals. After the water is sanctified by a priest, preacher or congregational leader, it is deemed to have been blessed with divine powers.

The liquid is used to bring blessings, well being and other positive outcomes such as healing or warding off evil spirits for places or individuals.

According to sources close to the investigation who requested anonymity, the alleged incident involving the holy water at Blanche Ely arose from a boisterous discussion Rodriguez was having with her students about the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.

On at least one social networking website, Rodriguez described herself as an “Atheist” and “change agent.”

In response to one student’s remark that the disaster in Haiti happened because of God’s wrath on the island nation over a pact its leaders made with Satan more than 200 years ago, Rodriguez reportedly began refuting Christianity.

The alleged Satanic pact in question reportedly occurred at Bois-Caïman, near Cap-Haïtien,  on August 14, 1791, during a voodoo ceremony held by enslaved Africans. The reported pact came before the slave rebellion and start of the Haitian Independence War, in which rebel leaders offered the reported agreement in exchange for a victory against the French Army.

In response to the lively discussion, Rainer and Robinson entered the room.

“Sounds like somebody needs some holy water,” a student remarked  before Robinson retrieved and displayed a small bottle of liquid from the doorway.

Rainer has been a teacher for 20 years, the last 13 of which have been at Ely. Robinson has been teaching at the school for 12 years, with 18 total years in education. Both have excellent performance evaluations.

McCray said that after the brief encounter ended, Rodriguez ate lunch with Rainer and Robinson, and there was never any further discussion about it until they were surprised with the April 12 notices from the school district.

School officials say they have no timetable on how long their investigation may take or how many witnesses could be interviewed. Rodriguez’s personnel file was not immediately available for review, and officials have not responded to questions about her past employment history.

“According to my client, Mrs. Rainer, and the students who witnessed it, this simply never happened,” McCray said.

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Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Leslie Rainer, left, and Djuna Robinson.
Comments (32)Add Comment
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Objective view
written by Mr. O, May 26, 2010
The actions that matter are two teachers interupted another teacher. No matter what personalities these teacher have, when 2 teachers interupt another's, action should be taken. No one is claiming that the two teachers didn't interupt her, so why is school getting this type of negative feedback? Could it be because people are defending their own faither instead of what is right?
written by Becca, May 25, 2010
If the reports that they get confirm what these two teachers supposedly did, they were definitely bullying and they need to be removed from the classroom entirely and not allowed to return. That's a terrible example to set.
written by Ambidexter, May 25, 2010
In response to one student’s remark that the disaster in Haiti happened because of God’s wrath on the island nation over a pact its leaders made with Satan more than 200 years ago, Rodriguez reportedly began refuting Christianity.

Rodriguez wasn't refuting Christianity, she was refuting Pat Robertson. He's the guy who pretends the Haitian earthquake happened because of a 200 year old pact with Satan.

Regardless of what Robertson believes, he's not "Christianity."
written by Raven, May 25, 2010
From everything I've read/heard, the teacher was NOT discussing religion in her classroom. She was discussing the earthquakes in Haiti when someone repeated Pat Robertson's absurd claim that Haiti is cursed by God because they made an ancient pact with the devil. Apparently, Ms. Rodriguez refuted that claim. She did NOT refute "christianity" - only a ridiculous claim that had no place in the discussion in the first place. Then a student commented that she is an atheist, which she confirmed. Nothing more than that. Are any of you trying to tell me that you would support the firing of a CHRISTIAN teacher for nothing more than responding "yes" when asked if she's a Christian? Really?

Then we have these other two self-labeled Christian teachers who somehow believe they have a "First Amendment Right" to interrupt Ms. Rodriguez class to chastize her about how she was running her classroom. The fact that they interrupted her class to berate and humilate this teacher is what got them suspended, not whether they sprayed the teacher with real Holy Water or perfume. These two teachers ADMIT they berated Ms. Rodriguez in front of her class. They are proud of their actions. They ADMIT they belittled her with a bottle of liquid they ADMIT they claimed was Holy Water. It doesn't matter if it really was or not, the point is that they purposely disrupted HER classroom to belittle her in front of her students.

It is for this reason they are on suspension while the investigation is completed.
written by Mark, May 25, 2010
There's so much speculation and hearsay in this article that pretty much every comment is irrelevant to it.

So one teacher allegedly said something (we don't know what) to a student and then two other teachers interrupted her class and allegedly embarrassed her in front of the pupils.

There's not a single quote from a single witness in this article. Where's the journalism?

There is one thing we can state though. The school believes there is reasonable evidence that two teachers broke a rule (harassment) while the other did not (e.g. breaking any school policies on religious discussion etc). Given that, and the fact that we do not know what was said in the classrom, all this anti-Atheism is utterly uncalled for.
written by Trul disgusted, May 24, 2010
Why is that atheist teacher tolerated for preaching her unbelief in God and yet others would be in major trouble if they preached Christianity or any of the other main stream religions? Speaking of anti religious and anti Christian bias in its highest form.
The Entire USA
written by Observer, May 24, 2010
After reading news articles from the USA and watching your so-called violent, gorey and pornographic 'entertainment', it seems as if the ENTIRE COUNTRY needs to be doused in Holy Water from planes! And that includes those demons in the White House.
Wake up
written by How dumb is Florida, May 24, 2010
Disparity in treatment: atheistic religion in class to children who opened mind and hearts in an academic classroom...the instructor should have advised the child to present that question w/parent or spiritual director outside of school forum or she could have discussed earth sciences about equate. Why is Rodriguez still employed w/evangelizing her beliefs. Untimely of filing charges: to wait 90 days to prevent accurate
recall of the truth. Public beration and denying benefits: parading the teachers out in front the students, suspension w/o pay. Hearsay evidence- No due process or the ability of those charged to see and respond or cross-exam hearsay evidence. Hearsay treated as factual. Reputation of the accuser intentionally defamed and not to mention egregious procedure defects in handling this incident. The school board should yank this matter due to the disruption of the school and it's mission and the community it serves. Also the principal committed labor law violation w/contract aside from the fact this is not progressive discipline for both accusers have excellent work ethics. You will have an EEOC issues with christains who responded verbally with their belief to a child questioning belief and answered by a teacher who expressed a belief under the basis of professing atheism. I recommend immediate recovery so the school board will not be spending its budget on the mishaps of knucke heads and litgation fees and settlements.
written by Karen, May 23, 2010
If Rodriguez is truly an atheist, then, to her, there is no such thing as "holy water," so she got a few drops of water (if it indeed happened) on her and was embarrassed in front of her students?

Not sure what the hubbubs all about.
Hurt Feelings
written by Michael Ray, May 23, 2010
It sounds as if the students turned against the atheist teacher, and when one of the students remarked,"sounds like somebody needs some holy water" one of the Christian teachers displayed a bottle of liquid in imitation of holy water. The thin-skinned atheist teacher was embarrassed, feeling ganged up on, and now wants revenge. The letter from the principal did not mention spraying of liquid, only that the two Christian teachers "upbraided and embarrassed a teacher at your school." It sounds to me the principal should have handled it in house - perhaps he wanted to but protocol required him to go the whole 9 yards. However, since this is not a "criminal" investigation, the teachers should have been ordered to leave at the end of the day, not in front of students - a genuinely embarrasing scene. If the teachers have the Teachers Union supporting them, they have a good chance of retaining their jobs. You know how difficult it is to fire teachers!
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