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Public school teachers using methods of controversial Scientology

July 28, 1997

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ At least three public school teachers are using Scientology teachings in their classrooms and one of them is hoping to establish a separate tax-funded ``charter school″ using the same methods.

District officials say they want to make sure using texts by the late L. Ron Hubbard, the controversial founder of the Church of Scientology, wouldn’t violate the city’s policy on religion in schools.

``I think we need to get more information on what this educational philosophy is so that we feel comfortable that it doesn’t have religious overtones,″ said board president Julie Korenstein.

The teacher who wants to lead the new school, Linda Smith, contends the materials developed by the late Hubbard are nonsectarian learning techniques appropriate for students of any faith.

She and two other teachers who also describe themselves as Scientologists said last week that they have been using Hubbard’s methods _ called Applied Scholastics _ in their classes.

Among their techniques: having pupils look up words in dictionaries. Only they call it ``word clearing.″

The three said that one of the most significant barriers to learning is the ``misunderstood word,″ and that Hubbard sought to alleviate students’ confusion by having them use dictionaries.

Ms. Smith’s proposal has drawn attention because of Scientology’s legal status as a religion and the questions raised by critics who call it a cult that exploits members by charging for many services. The Church of Scientology won tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service several years ago after a lengthy court fight.

As a charter school, Ms. Smith’s campus would get some support from tax funds but would be allowed to operate outside many state and district rules that constrain curriculum and budgets. Her proposed school would have have about 100 students.

Ms. Smith’s proposal, which made no mention of the Hubbard materials when it was unveiled before the school board last week, is scheduled for its next hearing Aug. 20.

In a recent recommendation letter, Ms. Smith’s principal, Rowena Lagrosa, praised her teaching, saying that her methods are ``pedagogically sound,″ and that she uses ``effective strategies that any other teacher would employ.″

Ms. Lagrosa said she was unaware Ms. Smith was using the Hubbard techniques.

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