NYC Teacher Fired Over Prayers
Jun. 17, 1998
NEW YORK (AP) _ An 11-year-old girl is too scared to go to school after her complaints led to the firing of a public school teacher for praying with students in class, the New York Post reported today.
Classmates told the newspaper the girl, a Jehovah's Witness, hasn't been in class at Intermediate School 74 in the Bronx since Friday's firing.
``She was sitting in a corner at her desk packing her bag,'' 12-year-old Jamela Berry said. ``She said she wasn't coming back.''
Mildred Rosario, 43, an untenured bilingual education teacher, prayed with her sixth-grade class June 8 after one of the students asked whether a schoolmate who had drowned had gone to heaven.
``I told them whoever doesn't want to participate in this conversation should go use the computer or read some books,'' Ms. Rosario said. None of the 29 students left.
Ms. Rosario, a Pentacostal, placed her hands on the students' heads during a prayer.
Ms. Rosario was fired because she violated the separation of church and state, school officials said.
``If in fact she was using her position in order to teach her religion, then that would be a dismissible offense,'' Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said.
James Pellechia, spokesman for the Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Society, said the school system was not the place for learning prayer.
``Children should be taught about prayer from their parents or religious institutions,'' Pellechia said.
Ms. Rosario's backers disagreed.
``There would be better kids in this world today if prayer was in school,'' said Lee Murray, 54, grandfather of one pupil.
The teachers' union is backing Ms. Rosario.