1. Religion & Spirituality

Discuss in my forum

Patti Wigington

Teen's Presentation Nixed for Diversity Week

By October 24, 2008

Follow me on:

Along with the scent of burning leaves, candy corn, and pumpkin spice, there's another smell in the air... aha, it's irony! At Pinkerton High School in Derry, New Hampshire, a Wiccan teenager's presentation on her spirituality which she had prepared for the school's Diversity Week has been cancelled. Why? Because some parents complained. So much for tolerance and acceptance, neh?

Jerica Haynes is a third generation witch, and practices with her mother and grandmother, and has always been open at school about her beliefs. Teacher Beth Hudson asked Haynes to create a presentation explaining Wicca to be presented during Diversity Week, which has been held for several years. The first Diversity Week at Pinkerton HS was held after racial issues on campus escalated between Latino and caucasian students. At any rate, once word got out about Haynes' presentation, several parents called the school to complain that the presentation was inappropriate. Some were concerned that the presentation "would be mandatory for students whose class signed up to attend the presentation."

Haynes' mom, Kerri, said that the whole point of Diversity Week "is to expose students to a vast variety of backgrounds before they enter the world on their own... denying students access to information about one belief or culture wrongfully denies that child personal advancement."

Meanwhile, Jerica Haynes is working with school administrators so that she can still make her presentation on Wicca, but after school, sometime in the next week or so. The presentation will be reviewed by a committee before being viewed by students, who will be able to attend the event on a voluntary basis. Haynes and her mom both think this is an appropriate course of action.

It's kind of a shame that those parents are missing the whole point of "diversity," but big props to Jerica Haynes and Beth Hudson for putting it in front of people in the first place. Maybe Pinkerton should offer a Diversity Event for parents.
October 24, 2008 at 10:04 pm
(1) Kendall says:

Another sad occurrence that would have never happened if the presentation topic was Christian-based. There’s certainly times like these that I’m not so proud to be an American, but I just remind myself that these people (the intolerant) are in the minority. Hopefully Ron White is wrong about not being able to fix stupid ;-)

October 24, 2008 at 11:50 pm
(2) rinnyrainwind says:

I realy get upset when I hear things like this. I would(in a perfect world) hope that people could learn to be open-minded and fair. After reading this article, I have my doubts that it will happen in my lifetime. I only hope and beg the Goddess, my grand daughter will see the dawn of tolerance and peace.

October 25, 2008 at 2:19 pm
(3) Vandreyer says:

Once again you have brought up a topic which I felt I just HAD to respond to by sending an email! Thought some of you might want to see it and perhaps send one yourself. I sent mine to maryanderson@pinkertonacademy.org. Got her addy from their website. Here is the text of my email :-)

Pinkerton Academy Mission Statement

Pinkerton Academy’s mission is to nurture the growth of all students in a challenging and respectful environment. The Academy fosters a student-centered community with purposefully designed, interactive, and relevant learning opportunities. While celebrating the strengths of our traditions, we encourage innovation in response to a changing world.

The philosophy of education at Pinkerton Academy is that students need to acquire the skills, values, behaviors, and knowledge that are essential for success in a diverse and rapidly changing society. Students also need to develop skills, talents, and abilities that will enable them to pursue new truths, knowledge, and skills. Students should also aspire to use their knowledge, skills, talents and abilities to improve the human condition. Embedded within this philosophy is our understanding of the nature of the learner. nature of learning and developmental traits of high school students.

These are from your web page and I am quite curious as to how you justify preventing a child from making a speech about her religion at a Diversity celebration while having such statements as “challenging and respectful environment”, “encourage innovation”, “pursue new truths”, “aspire to…improve the human condition,” etc. Obviously, you don’t have any “understanding of the nature of the learner. nature of learning and developmental traits of high school students.”

Preventing her from giving her speech is hypocritical beyond belief, patently discriminatory, and totally out of line with your stated philosophy, goals, mission, etc. Is this what you really want to teach your kids? That diversity is fine as long as you are just like everyone else?

Wake up and smell the incense – witches are people, too.

I signed it with my real name. I hope many more people send emails, make phone calls, and otherwise bring such ignorance to light.

Blessed be.

October 25, 2008 at 9:02 pm
(4) spellcaster says:

man fears what he doesnot understand!!
In this case they dont want to even try to understand! Well said indeed!!

Brightest Blessings!
Have An Amazingly Magickal Day!!

October 25, 2008 at 10:25 pm
(5) Rowan says:

What I wonder is do these parents really believe that their childrens faith is so little that all it takes is one lecture (presentation, display, etc.) to cause them to become pagan (wiccan) instantaneously. What harm is there in exposing students to different cultures? If this will cause your child to become something other than what you are teaching them, then obviously what you are teaching them is not very strong to begin with. Maybe you should look into these different cultures yourself and change your beliefs.

October 26, 2008 at 1:38 am
(6) christina says:

i was never allowed to wear my pentagram. when confronted by a teacher i asked ‘ would you care if it were a cross?’ people are just ignorant and intolerant, and there are some pagans out there that give us bad names, not to mention how we are portrayed in movies( the craft, for instance). its up to us to show our true colors. some day, perhaps, we will be accepted as a religion and not a ‘movement’. im still waiting

October 31, 2008 at 8:39 am
(7) Isabeau says:

What bothers me is that this young woman has to have her presentation “reviewed” by faculty before it can be presented to the student body; I am certain that this would not be happening were this presentation about one of the major religions.
The sad part is this doesn’t really get any better at the collegiate level either. I had the same resistance when I chose to do a term paper on modern paganism for a “world religions” class. I had to qualify my reasons for wanting to research this subject to the Dean of the philosophy department in order to get “special permission” to begin the paper. So much for college broadening your mind, and so much for “world religions”.
I finished the paper, and received the highest mark in the class. The professor complimented me on my “professionalism” and said he was suprised that it wasn’t “preachy” like he thought it would be. I simply replied “well, I’m not christian.”
That was one class I was truly happy to be finished with.

October 31, 2008 at 8:47 am
(8) NorthStar says:

Of course those parents that objected don’t object to Christan events in the schools now do they? I tolerated that for my sons, they took it all in stride and I felt could understand more if they are exposed to it all.

October 31, 2008 at 8:54 am
(9) gayle ledford says:

ach, some things never change. sounds like this school was in a small town anyway. not good for ‘cultural diversity’ acceptance. its very hard for ignorant people to get over prejudices of a thousand years, ja?

October 31, 2008 at 9:05 am
(10) Rich S. says:

Having grown up in the New England area, I have seen this sort of thing very often. It’s a shame that so many members of the major Monotheistic religions have so little real faith in their own religion, that they are so terrified of even attempting to learn something about another, non-monotheistic, faith.

Some people seem to fear anything they do not understand. This has been true for most of the monotheistic religions. We constantly see problems like this crop up all over the world. The thing I find interesting is that members of the main stream religions seem to forget that the early Christians felt it necessary to purge the followers of the earlier faiths, such as Wicca, Druidism, etc.. and borrow our holidays, to force people to follow theirs. I won’t even go into some of the other main religions activities which were used to enforce their own religion on the old followers. So why, I ask, was it necessary for them to burn, press, hang, decapitate and drown thousands of peaceful Wiccans and Druids in order to “spread” their religions?

I feel that no faith is credible, which uses terror, murder. and extortion to establish itself.

Unfortunately, these beliefs have been reinforced through every generation, up to today. So why can’t we all just get along…?

October 31, 2008 at 9:08 am
(11) Scolaí says:

I believe that it is a great success that the teacher was forward-thinking enough to even ask the child to prepare a presentation for the school. Here in the southern US, the teacher would have been more likely to have an intervention for the “demon possessed child” rather than allowing them to explain their beliefs.

I see this as a step forward – that a school official would be willing to suggest a presentation on Wicca. Sure, a minority of parents were ignorant (and desirous to stay that way), but don’t let their narrow-minded actions distract us from the positive in this situation.

October 31, 2008 at 9:16 am
(12) David Leiter says:

I am a Pinkerton Academy Alumni, and frankly this makes me ILL to see my own school being so wishy washy to cater to the needs and wants of everyone who was offended very easily. I am pagan, and PROUD of it. furthermore I will be contacting my old stomping grounds and berrateing the staff that I do know and will listen to reason. I am outraged.

October 31, 2008 at 9:22 am
(13) M. Reina says:

The purpose of school is to educate the student in reading, writing and mathematics. Religion has been taken out of school. You are also wrong that if it had been a Christian presentation it would have been allowed. Not so. Don’t call yourselves tolerant when you have routinely disparaged Christianity in your comments. Christianity is no more violent and intolerant than Wicca. Get your facts straight before complaining.

The parents had a right to complain, just as the Wiccan student’s parent had a right to complain. (Individual rights to not equal that they are in fact “in the right”.) But frankly, one person’s rights do not trump a majority. Where her rights end, mine begin.

While I don’t agree that the presentation should have been allowed, it is more acceptable that is an after school even, and on a voluntary basis.

October 31, 2008 at 9:29 am
(14) Lumas says:

It is unfortunate that in today’s society in America the pressure that can be applied by radical special interest individuals and groups is so great. Any type of governing body (including school boards) is vulnerable because they have to serve everyone but it is commonly known -majority rules-. One point I would like to make is, if this is a private school they are more likely to get away with it than a public school and more likely to bend to the will of those complaing few because they cannot afford to anger the people that PAY to send thier children there. This particular situation may be based on the almighty Dollar. How sad.

Blessed be! =)

October 31, 2008 at 9:33 am
(15) Lori F says:

I 2nd the letter from Vandreyer. Perhaps they should read this article. http://thephoenix.com/Boston/Life/70140-Spelling-lessons/

October 31, 2008 at 9:47 am
(16) Raine Hill says:

So much for “diversity”, huh? I understand the child’s plight, although I do resent it. My publisher would like to promote my children’s Pagan workbook, (coming out in Spring) to the masses, in hopes that not only families with Pagan children will enjoy it, but families who would like to eduate their children about other religions and ways of life. I told her I was all about it, but good luck with that. This is why. Certain people would have a fit if they saw a Pagan children’s book, much less one in a store under the Religious section — GASP — right beside books of their own religions! Why do we *alway* get the second-class religion status? It will certainly be interesting to see the reactions if it is placed in the Religious section and not the New Age/Metaphysical section. Watch your Barnes and Nobles and see how it comes out, lol!
Raine Hill

October 31, 2008 at 10:05 am
(17) Raine Hill says:

Vandreyer, great idea to send the emails, but maryanderson@pinkertonacademy.org is no longer a working addy. She must have gotta a lot already, lol.


October 31, 2008 at 10:25 am
(18) Holly says:

Yes, diversity only applies to the minority aspect, or when it comes to the Muslims and Jews. As soon as you want to expose the general populace to anything else, everybody is crying foul. Maybe those complaining parents and the school need to be reminded that Witchcraft is a legally recognized religion and a lawsuit could be in order? Perhaps a call to the Witche’s League for Public Awareness is in order?

October 31, 2008 at 10:38 am
(19) Bryce says:

Commenter M. Reina mistakenly conflates any discussion of religion with the constitutional prohibition against Congress’s making a law “respecting an establishment of religion.” A presentation about Wicca or any other religion is a far cry from mixing state and church. In fact high schools regularly teach their students about religions and customs that may be different from their own.

October 31, 2008 at 10:44 am
(20) GeckoRoamin says:

M. Reina says: Christianity is no more violent and intolerant than Wicca. Get your facts straight before complaining.

Really? Remind me again who started the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, countless wars in Europe, slavery in the US, and the genocide of Native Americans.

Christianity may not be a violent and intolerant religion, but a powerful, very vocal segment of it’s followers are anything but peaceful.

October 31, 2008 at 10:57 am
(21) Fairy Bear says:

I’m not sure but isn’t New Hampshire’s State Motto “Live Free or Die”?
I’ve never understood the terror of the majority but then again I’m not in the majority. Blessings on Jerica and for those of us who are followers of the Craft~ perhaps a little magick would be appropriate!

October 31, 2008 at 11:00 am
(22) Rebekah says:

M. Reina, we really are tolerant of other’s religion, and I think I can safely say that most of use here don’t really have a problem with Christianity, I know I don’t, but the majority of us have had problems with stereotypes brought on by Christians. And let me apologize before hand if I sound rude at any time, I’m honestly not trying to be rude.

You mentioned that Christianity is no more violent or intolerant than Wicca. Now there are plenty of Christians who are very non-violent and tolerant of people like us, but a good chunk of them aren’t. Christians have a very violent beginning, like the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials all have been horrifically violent to anyone who wasn’t Christian it is just mind boggling.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that all Christians are bad and Pagans aren’t (Cause that’s not true, both sides have bad eggs) but I can say that, even today, there are a lot of Christians who will drive Pagans from their homes to another town just because of their religion. I’ve even met a woman who had to call the cops on the pastor of her town because he would not leave her alone.

Also, while religion may not truly have a place in school, it hasn’t been taken out either. For example: FCA (Fellowship of CHRISTIAN Athletes), At my old high school we “Meet at the Pole” a prayer time for the Christians, I had friends that have been ridiculed and accused of being witches (One of those times by the Principal himself!).

Now granted I live in the belt buckle of the bible belt but I can safely say that had I even attempted to start a “Witch club” or a “Pagan Pride Association” I would have been accused of being some evil little devil worshipper by some of the staff.

October 31, 2008 at 11:03 am
(23) Leslie says:

Personally, I think a diversity course should be a requirement at the beginning of each education milestone, starting with elementary school with refreshers at the beginning of Junior high and high school. They’re already a requirement in college. I also think it shouldn’t address race only but religious beliefs as well. I think acceptance is easier when people are armed with an understanding of where other people come from.

October 31, 2008 at 11:16 am
(24) Johann says:

There’s one point that everyone is forgetting:

Diversity in the U.S. only means skin color or race, nothing else. Views – political or religious don’t count.

October 31, 2008 at 12:02 pm
(25) Sweetlillisa says:

It is disappointing that something like this happened. I believe all people should learn to be more tolerant. Unfortunately, when I think about that and all the chaos going on, I realize that will never happen. This is just some people trying to discriminate against others.

October 31, 2008 at 1:10 pm
(26) SHIVA says:

People are so dumb founded, and yes they are scared of things that they don’t understand. Thats why things are as what they are in this society so full of hate. If they we’re more like us it would be more peace.

October 31, 2008 at 1:36 pm
(27) Loretta Holmes says:

I was about 8 years old (over a century ago) when I was punished in school for insisting that I be allowed to play base ball even though I was a girl. “GIRLS DON’T DO THAT!” and was promptly punished at home too. That was a fundamental christian belief.
Now girls play sports and even run for President.
I never dared tell any one that God is a mother as well as a father.
It is all changing. It is taking a little longer for religion. We have continue to INSIST.

October 31, 2008 at 2:00 pm
(28) Lynn says:

Bravo to Loretta Holmes and to all the others for speaking your beliefs. I too have felt the sting of Christianity, mostly from our small town and family.
M. Reines, I feel that while you are right in the fact that both sides have a right to state their beliefs and opinions, I feel that the parents who objected to the student’s presentation did so out of fear. In our town there are a lot like them, and I have had personal contact with one. I feel pity for those who fear to know others just because they are different. A religion is about as contagious as a wish, so those parents have nothing to fear from a talk. If you can talk about differences in culture and holidays, then religion is a natural topic to include, for many beliefs in cultures and holidays center around religious beliefs. We are in the 21st century, and so many still have such narrow, close-minded views. We can’t advance productively if people continue to fear the “minority” religions under Paganism. Which, might I add, Wicca and other “Neo-pagan” religions are the fastest growing in the US right now. Blessings!

October 31, 2008 at 6:28 pm
(29) nicole hall says:

its very sad being a open wiccan student myself i know the way it is. i one wrote a speech on wicca and my teacher urged me to change subjects. so i changed to witch craft that wasent good enough, so i changed to pagen and that was bad also so i whent back to wicca.
but this is a differnt matter its diversity not majority week
what would have happend if they would have had diversity week and only let latin ideas? it wall starts with eptance. i dont dis christians but they do and say very ignorant things, as do all people i am friends with many christains and we leave the subject alone i do what i do and they do what they do. why cant we all?

October 31, 2008 at 9:02 pm
(30) Black Kat says:

One blogger nailed it: People hate what they don’t understand. This is a sad situation, but I am glad not everyone is like this. When I ran a small Pagan shop, I had a high school school girl come in to interview me for Diversity Week. (Also had a home-schooled group come in @ Halloween!) Anyway~ she asked me some very good questions, wrote her report, turned it in & aced it! Her teacher was so impressed with it (& curious about Wicca) that she came to my shop, not once , but twice & came to a book-signing to meet Ray Buckland!
One of our tenets is TOLERANCE & we must remember that those who hate us, do not understand us. Feel sorry for them that they do not live in light & love.

October 31, 2008 at 10:46 pm
(31) Persephonie says:

This is very disturbing and yet it is not unexpected. I could pretend for a mintute that these parents really were afraid of the assignment being mandatory but we alknow that’s not the case. As long as everything is being represented equally and noone is pushing anything there is no reason for anyoneto have a problem…Unlessof course they are close minded like these parents.

November 1, 2008 at 1:14 am
(32) Christine says:

Well, what else would you expect from Derry, NH? Does the name of the town ring a bell? Does anyone remember a teacher, Pamela Smart, screwing a kid and then sexually pressuring that kid and his buddies into killing her husband?? “Oh, but those boogie-boogie pagans might corrupt our kids!!!!!” No, your teachers already beat us to it! After that wonderful recommendation of your ever-so-fine school system, what else could we expect? Cripes…

November 1, 2008 at 1:54 am
(33) corryn says:

bloody typical its harry potter all over again! when will people open their eyes and minds up to the fact that wicca is not a cult!

November 1, 2008 at 2:26 am
(34) Michel says:

Isn’t it strange that we can allow all others to follow the spiritual path they need, when Monotheists see Pagans as some sort of weird dangerous threat – “Satanic” – ever tried to persuade a fundamentalist that we do not believe in Satan? My mother’s reply – Ah and that is Satan’s favourite trick; to persuade us that he does not exist! (My Mum, bless her old socks, is Mormon) – Sigh!
In perfect love and perfect trust.

November 1, 2008 at 12:32 pm
(35) Myssteryyy says:

This kind of thing upsets me, but I have mixed feelings about it.
I do not believe religion should be part of schooling,such as making kids pray before class and such… but I find no harm in learning about different cultures, religions and belief systems as part of a history class or social studies class.
The only way the majority will learn to understand and be tolerant of the other religions is to learn about them.

I live in MA and am moving to NH within the next few months, but I think I will be home schooling my daughter. When she’s older, I will help her learn about different religions, and then let her choose her own path. And I will support her decision – even if she changes her mind several times, and drives me crazy doing so.

It’s sad that the christian church feels the only way to get and keep it’s followers is through fear… and even sadder that the followers don’t see that.

I don’t think Jerica Haynes should have to go in front of a bunch of (no doubt, christians)people to convince them of anything. But, all the power to you girl!!! Maybe, you might just enlighten one person… but that’s one more person who sees the truth.

Blessed Be!!!

November 1, 2008 at 2:27 pm
(36) Winterfire says:

I think the whole issue is pathetic. Like many of you have said IT’S DIVERSITY WEEK!!!! But for the student and mom to have to jump through hoops to give her presentation is horrific. And that they’re ok with that?! I’d fight tooth and nail to get it presented when it was supposed to be done. Why should she be any different? What’s next? Pagans having to sit at the back of the bus?

November 2, 2008 at 12:44 am
(37) Christina says:

This is unbelieveable. In this day in age, when the entire planet is connected through various forms of media, there are those who fear the unfamiliar. Human nature, I suppose. However, one thing that makes us human is to have the capacity to be able to think in an abstract manner- outside the box!!

November 2, 2008 at 11:12 am
(38) Cpl. Michael Marts USMC says:

This was a sad event both for the young student AND the school. If this had been a Diversity Presentation about illegal immigrants, homosexuality or Anti-war hippie ideals no one would’ve complained. As a fiercely patriotic Marine, I get upset when fundamentalists shake their finger at Pagans but think nothing of putting up a Christmas Tree in their home, a wreath on their door or a jack-o-lantern on their doorstep (without knowing the Pagan rituals and symbols these things represent.) Hypocracy is our nations biggest enemy. As a proud Wiccan Warrior, I will NEVER back down.

November 3, 2008 at 12:13 am
(39) Jessie says:

I think it’s just hypocritical. They are allowed to expose us the racial thing but not other religions. The whole thing is they don’t understand what wicca is about so they are denying others to find out.

November 4, 2008 at 10:27 am
(40) RoseAnna says:

I also sent an email to the Pinkerton Academy. After looking at their site, I realised that this school REALLY is trying to a “feel good” environment for their students. I think they really do believe in their mission statement, and it seems to be a very accomplished school education-wise as well. It saddens me to think that they would let the scared voices of a few parents sway them from the the goal they have set forth, and that is tolerance amongst their students. This is what I had to say and of course I signed my given name, not my chosen name:

Can you stand to hear another complaint about not letting Jerica Haynes do her presentation? I took a visit to your site and think your school is probably a very good place to send a child, except for the fact that your “mission statement” and your actions are two different stories. How can you say you promote tolerance and then deny a student a chance to share her beliefs with her peers? What if the student were Jewish… What if the student were Hindu… would you deny them the right to share just because some parents were upset? Are the parents upset that she is a student there, or just that she wants to talk about her religion. Should she keep quiet about her families traditional religion- one that’s older than Christianity?? Should a Catholic keep quiet about their God? Should a Buddhist not share his message of peace and love? What happened to freedom of speech? Freedom of expression? I think you should either ask the girl to leave your school- because obviously her ideas are not welcome there and point her in the direction of a TRULY tolerant, and innovative school OR you could stand up for what you claim you stand for and refuse to let someone elses opinions about a group of people sway you from your MISSION.

February 18, 2009 at 11:29 am
(41) Jerica Haynes says:

Wow! I can’t believe this! Thanks for all of your support guys!!! The presentation I made went well, though hardly anyone showed up. But I take what I can. I just want to be able to make this place a little more accepting of us all!!

February 18, 2009 at 11:42 am
(42) paganwiccan says:

Hi Jerica! Glad to hear you were able to do the presentation after all, even if there weren’t a lot of people there. Was it after hours or during the school day?

By the way, don’t know if you saw this or not, but you were one of my Pagans Who Made a Difference in 2008 :)


February 18, 2009 at 11:51 am
(43) Jerica Haynes says:

It was after school, but we worked through it. And I saw that, Patti. I am so excited and honored! Hope I can keep the good work up!

-Jerica Haynes

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.