holy-water-meeting-with-pastors_web.jpgPOMPANO BEACH — Broward school officials have agreed to meet with church leaders to discuss issues surrounding the alleged sprinkling of holy water onto an atheist teacher.

“We do not have a date as of yet, but I do know Superintendent [Jim] Notter and [School Board Member] Mr. Williams have received calls from some pastors about having the meeting,” said Ruth L. Lutz, executive assistant to Broward County School Board Member Ben Williams.  “Yes, they will both attend the meeting when the date is finalized.”


The agreement to meet comes on the heels of a Monday, May 23 press conference that local pastors held at the Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach. 

schandra_rodriguez__web.jpgThere, they expressed concern over the removal of Blanche Ely High School teachers Djuna Robinson and Leslie Rainer from their classrooms following accusations that the teachers sprayed holy water onto an atheist colleague, Schandra Rodriguez. If the allegations are substantiated, the 20-year veterans could be fired.

The pastors are also seeking equal time with students of Rodriguez, who allegedly discussed anti-Christian topics with her students during class.

“There is no telling how much harm this teacher has  done to the Bible-believing children,” said the Rev. Mathes Guice, an associate minister at Pembroke Park-based Koinonia Worship Center. “We are asking for pastors to be given equal time with her students to refute her teachings.”

Organizers say they hope to schedule the meeting, which will be open to the public, for some time next week.

Appearing on websites and newscasts around the world, the holy water controversy has garnered international attention. It has also attracted local Tea Party activists.

“I think it’s an outrage,” said Danita Kilcullen, founder of the South Florida Tea Party group, who attended the press conference. “From what I heard, the one teacher is supposedly indoctrinating the children with atheism, and she still has a job.”

Kilcullen said her group is not officially involved, but is ready if the situation warrants.

“I told one of the teachers that if we are asked, we are ready, but I haven’t sent out any notices or emails,” Kilcullen said. “I founded this group, and we are about the Constitution and what’s right, and this isn’t right.”

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. It is used to build faith, heal, and bring about blessings.

“The students say there was no holy water or anything else sprinkled, and none of the teachers should have been removed, and this has to be corrected,” said the Rev. O’Neal Dozier, pastor of the Worldwide Christian Center, who is organizing the meeting with Notter and Williams. “There was a discussion, no violence, so the only controversy is what they have created by removing the teachers.”

During the press conference, Dozier described the teachers’ plight as “humiliating” and “mistreatment.” He also said the school’s principal, Karlton O. Johnson, “grossly mishandled” the incident and improperly singled out the two Christian teachers.

Johnson did not return repeated calls or respond to several emails seeking comment.

Nonetheless, organizers of the upcoming meeting are demanding that the Christian teachers be returned to the classroom, and they have asked Notter to bring Johnson to the meeting.

“He has to be there. It started with him,” Guice said. “At the very least, we are calling for the principal to undergo training on what is allowed in the classroom. By his not taking action against the atheist teachings, it appears the school district is supporting it and that may be a violation of state law.”

Robinson and Rainer were removed from their classrooms and escorted off school grounds on April 23.

According to Johnson, the reassignment was in response to a complaint filed by Rodriguez. Rodriguez could not be reached for comment and did not respond to interview requests sent to the school email address.

Rodriguez’s complaint alleges that she was sprinkled with holy water on March 11. Students who witnessed the incident say Rodriguez was having a discussion with them about her atheist views, her disbelief in God and the Bible. One student reportedly said,  “Sounds like somebody needs some holy water.”

Robinson then retrieved and displayed a small bottle of liquid from the doorway, but did not spray it, according to the Christian teachers’ attorney, Johnny L. McCray Jr.

“It’s not a fabrication, it’s a lie,” McCray said during the May 23 press conference, when asked if he believes the sprinkling accusation may have been fabricated.

The three women later ate lunch together as they regularly do, and – according to McCray – his clients were surprised more than a month later when they received notice stating that a complaint had been filed.

Further complicating the matter, all three teachers are members of the Broward Teacher’s Union (BTU). Robinson is the union shop steward at Ely. Rodriguez’s husband, also a teacher, is a BTU shop steward at Western High School.

“The BTU questions why the two teachers and members including one who is a BTU steward were removed from the school when the allegations do not involve a threat of or physical harm to an employee or student,” Broward Teacher’s Union spokesman John Ristow said in an email to the South Florida Times. “This goes against the general past practice of the district and its investigations.”

District spokesperson Eddie Arnold said he could not discuss the pending case, but would clarify the policy and criteria for an employee to be reassigned during an investigation.


Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. The Rev. O’Neal Dozier, forefront, with teachers Djuna Robinson, left, and Leslie Rainer, right, at press conference. Below is teacher Schandra Rodriguez.