A St. Paul Public School substitute teacher was disciplined after asking a Pagan elementary student to tuck her pentacle necklace into her shirt, a request not made to other students wearing religious necklaces.
Tasha-Rose Mirick’s daughter, Grace, is a 4th grader at Galtier Magnet School in St. Paul. Ms. Mirick says Grace proudly wears a pentacle necklace every day as a sign of her inner held beliefs, much like a Christian wears a cross or crucifix. Grace says the necklace has a special meaning to her in addition to it being an outward sign of her faith, “I told my friends a story about a Goddess and my mom heard me thought I was ready for the necklace. I was old enough to wear a sign of my faith. I was so excited that I was jumping around. It means a lot to me.”
She had worn the necklace to school everyday since the start of the school year. It wasn’t until she had a substitute teacher that Grace experienced any problems, “After lunch we went back to our room and our substitute teacher said I needed to put my necklace in my shirt.” Grace says she complied, but asked the teacher why she needed to do this. She says he told her, “because things like that should be kept to yourself.” Other children in the class had necklaces on, some of them with religious symbols, yet no request was made of them that they hide their necklace. Grace continued to keep her necklace hidden but was upset at being singled out. When she got home, she talked to her mother.
Mirick says she contacted Deborah McCain, Principal of Galtier, and the Minnesota Dept of Human Rights. Mirick said that Principal McCain took fast action, “She let me know that the substitute teacher will not be teaching at Galtier any longer and the likelihood exists that he will no longer be teaching in the St. Paul Public Schools.” McCain also gave Grace’s mom the phone number for the districts ombudsman to contact for followup. “This was same day action,” Mirick said, “I wasn’t expecting that.”
Grace and her mother feel good about the prompt action taken by the school to guarantee equal treatment of all students. Mirick feels this could have been a misunderstanding or something that could have been corrected with education. Likewise, Grace said, “I feel bad for him that he has a bad record, but I feel my principal did the right thing and showed that she really cares about us.”
Editor’s note: Tasha-Rose Mirick is a contributor at PNC-Minnesota