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Who We Are »
Betsy Combier

Help Us to Continue to Help Others »
Email: betsy.combier@gmail.com

 
The E-Accountability Foundation announces the

'A for Accountability' Award

to those who are willing to whistleblow unjust, misleading, or false actions and claims of the politico-educational complex in order to bring about educational reform in favor of children of all races, intellectual ability and economic status. They ask questions that need to be asked, such as "where is the money?" and "Why does it have to be this way?" and they never give up. These people have withstood adversity and have held those who seem not to believe in honesty, integrity and compassion accountable for their actions. The winners of our "A" work to expose wrong-doing not for themselves, but for others - total strangers - for the "Greater Good"of the community and, by their actions, exemplify courage and self-less passion. They are parent advocates. We salute you.

Winners of the "A":

Johnnie Mae Allen
David Possner
Dee Alpert
Joan Klingsberg
Harris Lirtzman
Hipolito Colon
Jim Calantjis
Larry Fisher
The Giraffe Project and Giraffe Heroes' Program
Jimmy Kilpatrick and George Scott
Zach Kopplin
Matthew LaClair
Wangari Maathai
Erich Martel
Steve Orel, in memoriam, Interversity, and The World of Opportunity
Marla Ruzicka, in Memoriam
Nancy Swan
Bob Witanek
Peyton Wolcott
[ More Details » ]
 
Preacher Teacher in New Jersey is Taped by One of His Students, Then Held Accountable
Matthew LaClair, a 16 year old junior at Kearny High School in New Jersey, blew the whistle on a proselytizing history teacher, David Paszkiewicz, by taping him in history class. Congratulations Matthew! We award Matthew LaClair an "A" For Accountability, and hope that you pursue your efforts to hold people accountable for their actions for years to come. Betsy Combier
          
   Matthew and his dad, Paul   
December 18, 2006
Talk in Class Turns to God, Setting Off Public Debate on Rights
By TINA KELLEY, NY TIMES
LINK

KEARNY, N.J. — Before David Paszkiewicz got to teach his accelerated 11th-grade history class about the United States Constitution this fall, he was accused of violating it.

Shortly after school began in September, the teacher told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only Christians had a place in heaven, according to audio recordings made by a student whose family is now considering a lawsuit claiming Mr. Paszkiewicz broke the church-state boundary.

“If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong,” Mr. Paszkiewicz was recorded saying of Jesus. “He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.”

The student, Matthew LaClair, said that he felt uncomfortable with Mr. Paszkiewicz’s statements in the first week, and taped eight classes starting Sept. 13 out of fear that officials would not believe the teacher had made the comments.

Since Matthew’s complaint, administrators have said they have taken “corrective action” against Mr. Paszkiewicz, 38, who has taught in the district for 14 years and is also a youth pastor at Kearny Baptist Church. However, they declined to say what the action was, saying it was a personnel matter.

“I think he’s an excellent teacher,” said the school principal, Al Somma. “As far as I know, there have never been any problems in the past.”

Staci Snider, the president of the local teacher’s union, said Mr. Paszkiewicz (pronounced pass-KEV-ich) had been assigned a lawyer from the union, the New Jersey Education Association. Two calls to Mr. Paszkiewicz at school and one to his home were not returned.

In this tale of the teacher who preached in class and the pupil he offended, students and the larger community have mostly lined up with Mr. Paszkiewicz, not with Matthew, who has received a death threat handled by the police, as well as critical comments from classmates.

Greice Coelho, who took Mr. Paszkiewicz’s class and is a member of his youth group, said in a letter to The Observer, the local weekly newspaper, that Matthew was “ignoring the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gives every citizen the freedom of religion.” Some anonymous posters on the town’s electronic bulletin board, Kearnyontheweb.com, called for Matthew’s suspension.

On the sidewalks outside the high school, which has 1,750 students, many agreed with 15-year-old Kyle Durkin, who said, “I’m on the teacher’s side all the way.”

While science teachers, particularly in the Bible Belt, have been known to refuse to teach evolution, the controversy here, 10 miles west of Manhattan, hinges on assertions Mr. Paszkiewicz made in class, including how a specific Muslim girl would go to hell.

“This is extremely rare for a teacher to get this blatantly evangelical,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nonprofit educational association. “He’s really out there proselytizing, trying to convert students to his faith, and I think that that’s more than just saying I have some academic freedom right to talk about the Bible’s view of creation as well as evolution.”

Even some legal organizations that often champion the expression of religious beliefs are hesitant to support Mr. Paszkiewicz.

“It’s proselytizing, and the courts have been pretty clear you can’t do that,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, a group that provides legal services in religious freedom cases. “You can’t step across the line and proselytize, and that’s what he’s done here.”

The class started on Sept. 11, and Matthew quickly grew concerned. “The first couple of days I had him, he had already begun discussing his religious point of view,” Matthew, a thin, articulate 16-year-old with braces and a passion for politics and the theater, recalled in an interview. “It wasn’t even just his point of view, it went beyond that to say this is the right way, this is the only way. The way he said it, I wasn’t sure how far he was going to go.”

On the second day of taping, after the discussion veered from Moses’s education to free will, Matthew asked why a loving God would consign humans to hell, according to the recording.

Some of Matthew’s detractors say he set up his teacher by baiting him with religious questions. But Matthew, who was raised in the Ethical Culture Society, a humanist religious and educational group, said all of his comments were in response to something the teacher said.

“I didn’t start any of the topics that were discussed,” he said.

In a Sept. 25 letter to the principal, Matthew wrote: “I care about the future generation and I do not want Mr. Paszkiewicz to continue preaching to and poisoning students.” He met with school officials and handed over the recordings.

Matthew’s family wrote four letters to the district asking for an apology and for the teacher to correct any false statements he had made in class, particularly those related to science. Matthew’s father, Paul LaClair, a lawyer, said he was now considering legal action against the district, claiming that Mr. Paszkiewicz’s teachings violated their son’s First Amendment and civil rights, and that his words misled the class and went against the curriculum.

Kenneth J. Lindenfelser, the lawyer for the Kearny school board, said he could not discuss Mr. Paszkiewicz specifically, but that when a complaint comes in about a teacher, it is investigated, and then the department leader works with the teacher to correct any inappropriate behavior.

The teacher is monitored, and his or her evaluation could be noted, Mr. Lindenfelser said, adding that if these steps did not work, the teacher could be reprimanded, suspended or, eventually, fired.

As for the request that Mr. Paszkiewicz correct his statements that conflict with the district’s science curriculum, “Sometimes, the more you dwell on the issue, the more you continue the issue,” Mr. Lindenfelser said. “Sometimes, it’s better to stop any inappropriate behavior and move on.”

The district’s actions have succeeded, he said, as the family has not reported any continued violations.

Bloggers around the world have called Matthew courageous. In contrast, the LaClairs said they had been surprised by the vehemence of the opposition that local residents had expressed against Matthew.

Frank Viscuso, a Kearny resident, wrote in a letter to The Observer that “when a student is advised by his ‘attorney’ father to bait a teacher with questions about religion, and then records his answers and takes the story to 300 newspapers, that family isn’t ‘offended’ by what was said in the classroom — they’re simply looking for a payout and to make a name for themselves.” He called the teacher one of the town’s best.

However, Andrew Lewczuk, a former student of Mr. Paszkiewicz, praised his abilities as a history teacher but said he regretted that he had not protested the religious discussions. “In the end, the manner in which Mr. Paszkiewicz spoke with his students was careless, inconsiderate and inappropriate,” he wrote to The Observer. “It was an abuse of power and influence, and it’s my own fault that I didn’t do anything about this.”

One teacher, who did not give his name, said he thought both Matthew and his teacher had done the right thing. “The student had the right to do what he did,” the man said. As for Mr. Paszkiewicz, “He had the right to say what he said, he was not preaching, and that’s something I’m very much against.”

Matthew said he missed the friends he had lost over his role in the debate, and said he could “feel the glares” when he walked into school.

Instead of mulling Supreme Court precedents, he said with half a smile, “I should be worrying about who I’m going to take to the prom.”

Comments on Matthew and a letter from his dad, Paul

'Preacher teacher' story goes national
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
By KEN THORBOURNE. The Jersey Journal
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
LINK

Monday there was the spread in the New York Times. Yesterday brought an appearance on National Public Radio. And this morning, Matthew LaClair, the Kearny High School student who blew the whistle on a proselytizing history teacher, is due on the set of Good Morning America.

"It's a good thing to spread the word about it because of the seriousness of the matter," LaClair, 16, said last night. "It is a little bit nerve-wracking, however, because so many students at this school are still mad at me."

LaClair secretly taped his history teacher, David Paszkiewicz, telling his students during his class that the theory of evolution is wrong, that dinosaurs were on Noah's Ark and that those who don't believe Jesus died for their sins "belong in Hell."

The Jersey Journal first wrote a story on LaClair's complaint and tapes on Nov. 15. Ever since, he's received nationwide media attention - as well as a death threat e-mailed to his MySpace account, he said.

"One kid told me I'm lucky I'm not dead," LaClair said.

School officials didn't return phone calls for comment yesterday. They previously told the newspaper that Paszkiewicz is an outstanding teacher and that "corrective action" has already been taken in regard to the matter.

In fact, when LaClair first told administrators about his teacher's preaching, they didn't believe him - until he produced the CDs containing the off-the-curriculum classroom lectures.

"People have to know when something goes wrong you have to do something about it," LaClair said.

Teacher proselytizes class in suburban New Jersey
by JewsOnFirst.org, November 28, 2006

A public high school teacher lectures his history class that they will go to hell if they don't accept Jesus. A student gives a recording of the lectures to school administrators -- who defend the teacher. The community turns against the student. This is not happening in Missouri or Oklahoma, but in Hudson County, New Jersey, a quick commute from Manhattan.

"This is just like a nightmare," the student's father, Paul LaClair told JewsOnFirst. in a telephone interview this weekend. He said that the Kearny School District has refused the family's request that school officials correct the statements he made to the class disparaging evolution and the Big Bang and favoring creationism.

During lectures in September teacher David Paszkiewicz, who, according to local news reports, also works as a Baptist youth pastor at a local church, told students that evolution is not scientific and claimed that there were dinosaurs on Noah's ark.

He also told them that if they did not accept Jesus, they belong in hell.

"I'm upset at him as a public school teacher, pushing it on students. They're too young," said Matthew LaClair, a 16-year-old junior at Kearny High School.

The Kearny School District serves the town of Kearny, population 40,000.

School district slow to act
Matthew LaClair recorded Paszkiewicz's proselytizing, because he was concerned that school officials would not believe an undocumented complaint about the teacher's statements. And indeed, that turned out to be true.

According to the Jersey Journal, when Matthew LaClair met last month with the school principal, Paszkiewicz and the head of the social studies department, Paszkiewicz denied proselytizing and his bosses believed him -- until LaClair presented them with CDs he'd made of the lectures.

Principal Al Somma kept LaClair waiting two weeks for the meeting. Now, more than a month has passed and, according to Paul LaClair, no one in the district has listened to the recordings except for the board's attorney. "He told them not to listen," said LaClair, himself a lawyer, who termed the advice, "an incompetent job of lawyering."

Paul LaClair told JewsOnFirst that the school board has so far refused to put the matter on its agenda. He said the family addressed the board during the public comment time, although their time was limited.

Matthew LaClair said he reproached the school superintendent, Robert Mooney, saying "I thought when I gave this information to you, it would be handled by an adult, I guess I was wrong."

It was not until mid-November, when the Jersey Journal reported the story and it began to circulate around the blogosphere that Mooney moved to address the situation. He first told the Journal that he would take "corrective action." A day later Mooney told the paper he had taken corrective action, but he would not say what action he had taken.

Mooney did not respond to JewsOnFirst's request for comment. But, according to the LaClairs, no action has been taken to correct Paszkiewicz's "incorrect and inappropriate statements," which is their main concern.

Superintendent: "A wonderful teacher"
Paszkiewicz was reportedly still teaching. And Mooney called him a "wonderful teacher." He told the newspaper he believed that Paszkiewicz "was trying to have a high-level discussion with his students." The superintendent continued: "Right now he has to be very careful. But I also don't want ... him to throttle down the level of discussion based on this issue."

As transcribed by the Journal, Paszkiewicz told the class that

(Jesus) did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sin on his own body, suffered your pains for you and he's saying, "Please accept me, believe me."
If you reject that, you belong in hell. The outcome is your prerogative. But the way I see it, God himself sent his only son to die for David Paszkiewicz on that cross ... And if you reject that, then it really is to hell with you.

Paul LaClair told JewsOnFirst that when one of the students asked about a popular girl who's Muslim, Paszkiewicz said she'll go to hell.

Former students of Paszkiewicz have started to come forward to say that he also preached to their classes, Paul LaClair said. "He uses the first week of class, before the books are handed out, to preach."

Local hostility
The citizens of Kearny are not lauding Matthew LaClair for revealing Paszkiewicz's proselytizing. "Response in this town has been terrible," he told JewsOnFirst. "A decent majority of the town is angry at me." He termed the public anger "upsetting" and said he has had a few threats.

When the Jersey Journal went to interview LaClair outside the high school, its reporter witnessed students taunting Matthew and glaring at him.

Matthew LaClair told JewsOnFirst that people in Kearny are "trying to defend Paszkiewicz, but there's nothing to defend." He added that it was encouraging to hear from supportive out-of-town people.

Asked how he will get through the year and a half before he graduates, he replied: "by sticking with the true friends that I have at school."

If he had it to do over again, would he? "Oh definitely," he responded. "In a heartbeat."

Paul LaClair said he has contacted counsel for possible action against the school district.

Student tapes teacher proselytizing in class
Accept Jesus or 'you belong in hell,' he said

By Ken Thorbourne, Jersey Journal, November 15, 2006

A Kearny High School student has accused a history teacher of crossing the line between teaching and preaching -- and he says he's got the tapes to prove it.

Junior Matthew LaClair, 16, said history teacher David Paszkiewicz, who is also a Baptist preacher in town, spent the first week of class lecturing students more about heaven and hell than the colonies and the Constitution.

LaClair said Paszkiewicz told students that if they didn't accept Jesus, "you belong in hell." He also dismissed as unscientific the theories of evolution and the "Big Bang."

LaClair, who described his own religious views as "non-Christian," said he wanted to complain about Paszkiewicz to school administrators, but feared his teacher would deny the charges and that no one would take a student's word against a teacher's.

So, he said, he started taping Paszkiewicz.

"I would never have suspected something like this went on in a public school," LaClair said yesterday. "If I didn't have those CDs, everything would have been dismissed."

The Jersey Journal has listened to the recordings and no one is disputing that it is Paszkiewicz who is speaking.

Paszkiewicz, a teacher at the high school since 1992, did not return phone messages left for him at the high school. Principal Al Somma declined to comment.

Superintendent Robert Mooney, who called Paszkiewicz "a wonderful teacher," said he was aware of the issues raised by LaClair -- and the recordings -- and that "corrective action" would be taken. He refused to elaborate.

As of yesterday, however, Paszkiewicz was still teaching his class, Mooney said.

On Sept. 14 -- the fourth day of class -- Paszkiewicz is on tape saying, "He (God) did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sin on his own body, suffered your pains for you and he's saying, 'Please accept me, believe me.'"

He adds, according to the tapes: "If you reject that, you belong in hell. The outcome is your prerogative. But the way I see it, God himself sent his only son to die for David Paszkiewicz on that cross ... And if you reject that, then it really is to hell with you."

Paszkiewicz didn't limit his religious observations to personal salvation, according to the tapes.

Paszkiewicz shot down the theories of evolution and the "Big Bang" in favor of creationism. He also told his class that dinosaurs were on Noah's ark, LaClair said.

On Oct. 10 -- a month after he first requested a meeting with the principal -- LaClair met with Paszkiewicz, Somma and the head of the social studies department.

At first, Paszkiewicz denied he mixed in religion with his history lesson, and the adults in the room appeared to be buying it, LaClair said. But then he reached into his backpack and produced the CDs.

Kearny school says action was taken against teacher who preached religion
By Ken Thorbourne, The Jersey Journal, November 16, 2006

Kearny school officials said yesterday they have taken "corrective action" against a history teacher who was recorded by a student preaching about heaven and hell in the classroom.

Neither Superintendent Robert Mooney nor Kearny High School Principal Alfred Somma would say what actions were taken against David Paszkiewicz, but both said further action might be taken if necessary.

Matthew LaClair, a 16-year-old junior, said Paszkiewicz spent the first week of class telling students that if they didn't accept Jesus, "you belong in hell." He also dismissed as unscientific the theories of evolution and the "Big Bang" in favor of creationism, and told his class that dinosaurs were on Noah's Ark, LaClair said.

LaClair said he wanted to report Paszkiewicz to school administrators but feared no one would believe him. So he began recording the teacher's lectures.

On Oct. 10, LaClair met with Paszkiewicz, Somma and the of the school's social studies department. At first, Paszkiewicz denied the al legations and the adults in the room appeared to believe him, La Clair said. But then, LaClair produced the tapes.

Yesterday, Mooney and Somma defended Paszkiewicz as an outstanding teacher.

"I think (Paszkiewicz) was trying to have a high-level discussion with his students," Mooney said. "Right now he has to be very careful. But I also don't want ... him to throttle down the level of discussion based on this issue."

Mooney said Paszkiewicz made his comments in the context of discussions about the effect religion had on the shaping of America.

Paszkiewicz, a youth pastor at Kearny Baptist Church and a teacher at Kearny High since 1992, did not return phone calls for comment.

Meanwhile, LaClair said he has been shunned by his fellow students for reporting the teacher.

"I lost a few friends," LaClair said yesterday. "I don't really hold it against them. I hope over time we'll get back together."

As LaClair spoke to a reporter outside the high school yesterday, several students taunted him while others glared as they passed by.

"Mr. Paszkiewicz is an outstanding man," said 16-year-old Stephanie Formoso, a member of the crew team coached by Paszkiewicz and one of his history students.

"Matt set him up," Formosa said. "Mr. Paszkiewicz would always say (when he spoke about religion) 'In my opinion.' He never pushed his beliefs on anyone."

Kearny High Jeers, Cheers
Kearny school says action was taken against teacher who preached religion
By Ken Thorbourne, The Jersey Journal, November 16, 2006

KEARNY - The high school student who blew the whistle on a teacher who preached about heaven and hell in the classroom felt the wrath of fellow students yesterday, even as school officials divined if the teacher would be subject to further "corrective action."

Matthew LaClair, the 16-year-old junior who took issue with - and recorded - history teacher David Paszkiewicz, said classmates both shunned and cursed him yesterday in the wake of a front-page story in yesterday's Jersey Journal spotlighting LaClair complaints about Paszkiewicz's religious rants in the classroom.

"I lost a few friends," LaClair said. "I don't really hold it against them. I hope over time we'll get back together."

LaClair, who began taping Paszkiewicz during the first week of school, captured the 14-year teacher saying that students who don't understand that God suffered for their pains "belong in Hell."

The teacher also shot down evolution and the "Big Bang" theory in favor of creationism and said dinosaurs were on Noah's Ark, according to LaClair.

For the second day in a row, Paszkiewicz, a youth pastor at Kearny Baptist Church and a teacher at Kearny High since 1992, didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

But Superintendent of Schools Robert Mooney and Kearny High School Principal Alfred Somma defended him as an outstanding teacher and said "corrective action" - which they didn't define - had already been taken against him. Further action might be taken if necessary, they said.

"I think he (Paszkiewicz) was trying to have a high-level discussion with his students," Mooney added. "Right now he has to be very careful. But I also don't want in the long run for him to throttle down the level of discussion based on this issue."

Mooney said Paszkiewicz made his comments in the context of discussions about the effect religion had on the shaping of America.

But teachers have to be careful not to hold up their own personal beliefs as gospel, said Jeremy Leaming, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"A public school teacher is a state actor," Leaming said. "In that capacity he is supposed to insure there is a separation of government and religion."

As LaClair spoke outside the Devon Street school, some students yelled taunts at him while others glared.

"Mr. Paszkiewicz is an outstanding man," said 16-year-old Stephanie Formoso, a member of the crew team coached by Paszkiewicz and one of his history students.

"Matt set him up," Formoso added. "Mr. Paszkiewicz would always say (when he spoke about religion) 'In my opinion.' He never pushed his beliefs on anyone."

School for scandal
Editorial by Rebecca Kaplan Boroson, New Jersey Jewish Standard, November 16, 2006

Public school teacher tells class: "You belong in hell"
The Lippard Blog, November 12, 2006

The following is from Paul L. LaClair, a NYC attorney who lives in Kearny, New Jersey, and is posted with his permission. David Paszkiewicz, the teacher described here engaging in incompetent teaching and dishonesty, is apparently a youth pastor at Kearny Baptist Church in addition to being a public school teacher.

When Teachers Preach: N.J. Student Records History Teacher’s Sermonizing
The Wall of Separation, Official Weblog of Americans United, November 16, 2006

David Paszkiewicz is a youth pastor at Kearny (N.J.) Baptist Church. He is also a history teacher at Kearny High School. Sometimes, it seems, he gets the two roles mixed up.

Matthew LaClair, a student in Paszkiewicz’s public school classs, recorded his teacher offering his class an array of religious opinions.

 
© 2003 The E-Accountability Foundation