5 more reader updates

If you thought we were done with updates, you thought wrong. Here are five more.

1. The reader who had realized that she talked too much in meetings

Your readers had a ton of good advice that made me approach professional communication in a whole new way. I still go overboard when I get excited about things, but on the whole I think I’ve gotten better, and at my recent performance review my manager flat-out told me that she’s seen improvement in this area. So a big thank-you to both you and your readers!

2. The reader getting bad job advice from her parents

I am still working as an administrative assistant for the charter school that I wrote about in my initial post. Salary-wise, things are really looking up for me. A few months ago, I received a raise. I now receive paid personal and sick days, and instead of receiving hourly pay I am now salary based. With my raise, it adds up to $14/hour which I am pretty pleased about. My mom is pretty thrilled about the raise as well, and she does not give me grief about my job anymore. I really love my job and all of the responsibilities that I have in the workplace. I am learning so many transferable skills and the work that I am doing/being trained to do will give me the experience to make a pretty nice salary in a few years.

There is just one thing that I am not very pleased about in my workplace. Our charter school is a public school and we have no religious affiliation. But there are a few employees that are not able to separate church and state. The main culprit is the other secretary that I share the front office with. She is very religious; so religious that she is trying to force her beliefs on our other students. When students are misbehaving and sent to the office, she will give them Jesus coloring pages or the Bible to calm them down. Once she even had a child sit on her lap while she made him watch a church sermon on YouTube. The director of the school is no help in the matter since she is extremely religious as well, and my direct supervisor is a pastor, so I am in the minority with thinking that this is grossly inappropriate. I feel like if the Department of Education found out about this, we could all get in huge trouble since we are a public school. Especially since the other secretary blares gospel music and church sermons everyday from her computer and had even talked to our bosses in front of me about how she will never separate church and state since God is such a huge aspect in her life. The music is distracting to me while I am trying to work, and a bit offensive since I think that religion should have no place in a public institution. But my bosses encourage it and even gave her new speakers as a gift so she can listen to her songs. I just feel that if she has such an issue with separating church and state, she should work for a private school or a religious organization.

Again, thank you for answering my question last year.

3. The reader wondering if she still had a job since she wasn’t getting any hours (#4 at the link)

Hey, thanks for the advice, it really helped me stop freaking over what to write on my resume and application forms.

Because of the downsizing of early this year, I’ve gone from regular part-time to seasonal part-time, so if the station needs an extra hand around, they’ll call me. I am currently looking for other work to fill out the rest of my year. But now I know what’s going on so I can properly fill out my applications. Thank you, again, for your advice, and for the commenters who helped. Turns out there was miscommunication towards telling me what exactly is going on with my position.

4. The reader wondering whether to let her manager know she was dealing with miscarriages (#3 at the link)

I did tell my male boss about the impending third miscarriage. He was very understanding and didn’t tell anyone or make a big issue of it. I ended up not telling him about the 4th one and just taking sick days. At some point, I myself am sick of talking about it.

5. The recent journalism grad wondering whether to accept a communications internship (#6 at the link)

I accepted the internship and was in that role for about two and a half months. Once that was coming to a close, I had three different departments approach me about doing some work for them in varying degrees of permanence. I’m pleased to say that I was able to transition into a full-time, permanent gig with a different department that is very relevant to my interests and strengths. I’ve also done some pretty great networking, since my former supervisors know quite a few people in journalism. I’m very happy in my new role, but I’m also not opposed to doing some freelance writing on the side, which is the best of both worlds, really. I’m so glad I took the internship, so thank you (and some of the commenters) for encouraging me to do so!

{ 73 comments… read them below }

      1. Lynn

        I love this blog, but without the updates, I’m sometimes left feeling like nothing good ever happens. (Because no one, probably, asks questions about the ideal situations…) This closure is so nice and encouraging, for the most part!

  1. Anonymous

    Oh man the religiosity sounds horrible! I would honestly make an anonymous complaint to the district or some other higher-ups in this case, since the gospel music and Jesus coloring pages cross such a strong line.

    1. RG

      The state agency that monitors the money should know. It could endanger the grant that the school receives to operate.

    2. MentalEngineer

      Depending on how much this bothers the OP, s/he might also consider contacting the ACLU, Freedom from Religion Foundation, and similar organizations that LOVE to litigate this kind of thing. OP would be my hero for doing so – I worry about the religious right smuggling religion into charter schools like they did with homeschooling, and a test case or two would be really useful.

      1. Lorena

        Seconded on the Freedom From Religion Foundation – religious teaching in public schools is a huge issue for them, and they have had a lot of success in this area. The group is based in Madison, Wisconsin.

  2. PollyRhea

    Per LW #2, the separation of church and state is a very fickle thing. Someone feel free to correct me, but it boils down to: teacher’s can’t teach religion in class, or as a part of their lecture. Making children watch a sermon (while sitting on her lap?!), and hanging out bibles are probably no-nos.

    However, I think it’s fine if your colleague plays religious music. Not very professional, but I think it’s a company culture thing.

    1. Forrest

      Yea, the music doesn’t bother me anymore than rock or country music blaring loudly would.

      Its the coloring pages and handing out the bible that are the big deal breakers for me. I would be livid if it was my kid.

    2. danr

      Since this is a charter school, the lines may be blurred. While the school may be in a public school and get public money, the school might actually be a religious school. And most of the parents will know this and approve, since they set it up that way to start with.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit

        No. To be clear: Charter schools are public schools, with public funding. While there might be some charter schools that in effect operate as religious schools, they are not allowed to do so and can be shut down if they do. (One such school was recently shut down for this reason in Minnesota: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarek_ibn_Ziyad_Academy),

          1. Michael

            This is the first case I thought of too. The OP just needs to let a journalist know and the problems should be exposed to the right people (after, of course, getting a job somewhere else).

            1. Liz T

              You’ve put your finger on it–the OP doesn’t WANT a job somewhere else, or to shut the school down.

        1. Chinook

          In Alberta, we have charter schools to which may or may not be religious depending on their charter. If they were found to be incorporating religion into their general culture (which is much more than teaching religion classes and this secretary is a good example of what not to do), they could either loose their public funding and/or be shut down. At the very least, they would loose their clientele/students since no one likes it when there is a bait and switch of mission statements.

    3. Vicki

      Treat the music as noise that prevents you getting your work done. Ignore the type of music. The other woman needs headphones, not speakers.

    4. MentalEngineer

      The music could conceivably still be a problem. If it’s played pervasively and the kids are exposed to it every time one of them has to come to the office, one could argue that it does constitute a de facto endorsement of religion to the children by the administration. I don’t know how well that line of argument would stand up in court (IANAL), but I would definitely mention it when I complained to the board of education under the ‘kitchen sink’ principle.

    5. KellyK

      That sounds reasonable to me too. As long as the music is in someone’s workspace rather than, say, in the classrooms or blared over the PA system, it shouldn’t really constitute imposing it on the students.

  3. holly

    i’d be interested to hear thoughts on #2’s new question. if the religion is not actually inside the classroom, what are the rules? also i think it’s only possible for anything to change if the parents have a problem with it.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit

      Students at a public school cannot be obligated to participate in religious activities. In the case of the school I linked to above (awaiting moderation, so the link should pop up soon), the school buses didn’t leave the building until after an optional afternoon prayer session (that is, students who didn’t want to participate in the prayer session weren’t provided with transportation home until after the prayer session concluded). That was enough for the state to conclude that the school was obligating students to participate.

  4. Ann Furthermore

    For #2, I would find this unbearably offensive, because one thing that really troubles me is when people impose their religious beliefs (whatever they are) onto others. This behavior definitely qualifies as that. I too would consider making an anonymous complaint, and seeing if that makes any difference.

    My father was a Methodist minister, and I don’t think he was the most prolific Biblical scholar that ever lived, but I do think he knew more about this kind of thing than the average person. He and my mom taught us that a person’s relationship with God is a very personal, private thing, not to be put on display. Whenever he saw anyone like a politician or celebrity start talking about religion, he found it very offensive and he felt that person was guilty of the worst kind of hubris. Whenever I see people being so pious and self-righteous about religion (which in my opinion is what’s happening here) I always hear my dad’s voice in my head asking, “Who are you trying to convince? Me or you?”

    Let me be clear that I have no problem with anyone’s religious beliefs, nor do I look down on anyone because of their faith, or anything like that. I just don’t like to have anything like that imposed upon me, against my will. Being forced to listen to gospel music and sermons all day long is, in my book, having religious beliefs forced upon me. I believe in God, but my relationship with God and my faith is no one else’s business but my own.

    Now, here’s an amusing aside that this conversation reminded me of. My husband is an atheist, and a big believer in science. He recently started seeing a new doctor, and the first question he asked him was, “Do you believe in evolution?” If the answer had been no, my husband was fully prepared to thank the doctor for his time, and then find someone else. When he told me he was going to ask this question, I started laughing, and he asked if I thought he was kidding. I said, “No, I don’t, which is what makes it so funny!” And when he asked the question, I guess the doctor was rather non-plussed and said said no one had ever asked him that before, but that yes, he did believe in evolution. My husband replied that he believes in science, and just wanted to make sure he and his doctor were on the same wavelength. LOL!

    1. urban adventurer

      Whenever I see people being so pious and self-righteous about religion (which in my opinion is what’s happening here) I always hear my dad’s voice in my head asking, “Who are you trying to convince? Me or you?”

      LOVE this. Not sure if I’d have the guts to say this to someone trying to convert me…but I’ll certainly be thinking it.

    2. Elizabeth

      I think that’s fair! Doctors are, after all, dealing with biology – and an understanding of infectious disease involves understanding how those diseases evolve. (This is why some strains of bacteria are now alarmingly antibiotic-resistant, and also why you need to get a flu shot every year.) I don’t care if my plumber or my mechanic accepts evolution, but I want my doctor to.

    3. Anon

      Whew – if your friendly neighborhood chimp should ever morph into a human, this doctor is apparently fully qualified to treat him.

      1. KellyK

        Or if bacteria evolve into resistant forms. You know, like they do, all the time.

        I want to be treated by a doctor who doesn’t believe in evolution about as much as I want to fly in a plane designed by a flight engineer who doesn’t believe in gravity.

        1. Cath@VWXYNot?

          +1. It’s not just infectious diseases – cancers evolve, too, under the same laws of natural selection as whole organism. I would never consider seeing a doctor who doesn’t understand that.

    4. Elizabeth West

      That’s great. I may steal your dad’s question.

      I myself am somewhat religious (was raised Catholic, non-practicing at the moment), but I dislike heartily when people try to tell me I’m “doing it wrong.” I grew up hearing this frequently, in a place where there was one tiny Catholic church and the majority was Protestant.

      It really bothers me when people claim they have a right to push their religion on other people. No, by law, you have the right to practice your religion in any way that conforms to law (meaning you can’t do anything that is illegal). No one is stopping you from doing that. And you have the right to proselytize if that is also part of the religion, but you can’t force someone else to listen to it. Your rights end where mine begin.

  5. Clara

    Re #2 – I think this person should report this behavior to the Department of Ed. If I was a parent of a child in that public school, I would be furious if my child was disciplined in that way or given any type of religious reading materials in any context at school.

    1. Jamie

      I’m surprised a parent hasn’t reported it yet. I would, even if it were material of my own faith, I would be incensed.

      1. Ruffingit

        I was surprised a parent hadn’t reported it also and then I thought that maybe the parents don’t know. The OP says when the kids are misbehaving and sent to the principal’s office, they are given the coloring pages and that the one kid was made to watch the sermon, but she doesn’t indicate that the parents are being made aware of this. It could be that the parents are told the kids misbehaved, but not told about the religious stuff. And maybe the kids aren’t saying anything either and that’s why the don’t know.

        Or, the parents are also religious and don’t care about this. Whatever the case, I think the OP should make an anonymous complaint. I have a strong faith in God, but I strongly believe it to be a personal relationship and not one that should be forced on people where they go to school or work.

      2. KellyK

        So would I, but I think a lot of Christians of the more evangelical persuasion don’t see it that way. (There’s a tendency in evangelical circles to view any attempt at religious neutrality in schools as teaching atheism/agnosticism.) danr might be right that it’s expected–hard to say depending on the location.

      1. Anonymous

        I wouldn’t like it either, but it can be the norm in some parts of the country. If it is, it’s unlikely that complaints will accomplish much, and might cause a problem for the complaining party [so the recommendation above for anonymity is a good one.]

    2. Verde

      Depending on where they school is located, it may not seem like an issue to many of the parents. I have attended public schools where Christmas pageants and religious carols were part of the repertoire, and others where – due to the diversity and vocal-ness of the population – it was kept neutral. If the community is primarily Christian, it may not even occur to anyone that this is inappropriate. Which makes it even *more* uncomfortable for those that are in the minority (different religion, no religion, etc.) and is actually why it’s even more important to get it out of public schools. Those that disagree with it don’t feel they can speak up, as then they become those “bad people who ruined Christmas” and get penalized for it if they do.

      Funnily enough, the person who is credited with the idea of the separation of church and state was himself a man of the cloth.

      1. RedStateBlues

        I was going to ask about the school’s location. I live in the South where the church/state boundaries are regularly blurred.

      2. Chinook

        As a practicing Christian (of the Catholic variety) I would take issue with the secretary punishing my child with Jesus coloring pages, the Bible and sermons because it is a poor way to change behaviour (especially since most children see coloring as a reward) and it can lead the child to see sermons and the Bible as a punishment and not guidance or comfort.

  6. Anonymous

    <i?Especially since the other secretary…had even talked to our bosses in front of me about how she will never separate church and state since God is such a huge aspect in her life.

    This really pisses me off. Separation of church and state isn’t an option that you take or leave according to preference. She doesn’t get to collect a salary from a publicly funded institution and thumb her nose at the restrictions placed on that funding. She’d probably be happier somewhere like Hobby Lobby where it’s all about cherrypicking which laws you follow.

    1. BausLady

      +1

      Also, she’s probably the same person who would get totally up in arms if she found out someone was ‘preaching’ atheism to her child. But it’s totally okay for her to push her beliefs on any poor unsuspecting child that walks into the office.

      There’s also a power imbalance aspect to this. These kids are being spouted at by a person of authority in their lives. They’re never going to say they’re uncomfortable or don’t want to hear it because they won’t want to get in trouble. (Although it does sound like these kids might be too young to even recognize the issue and feel uncomfortable about it).

      1. Lils

        Agreed…at many schools even minor expressions of religious faith are forbidden because the teacher has a bully pulpit–the students are not allowed to leave or otherwise excuse themselves. It’s not appropriate for a person in authority, who has control over the students, to indicate that one faith is better or more correct than another. Especially about something so personal, sensitive, and unrelated to school.

        However, it sounds like the OP might live in the Bible Belt or another similar place. I would be very cautious about reporting something that, anonymous or not, people could connect to you from the details of the story. Having lived in a place like this, most normal people would be surprised at everyday social mores. Don’t assume reporting won’t come back to haunt you–I’d find another job first.

  7. PurpleChucks

    Re: #2. Contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation (ffrf.org/‎). They help with this sort of thing ALL THE TIME! At the very least, their website had lots of good information about the separation of church and state, etc.

    1. Twentymilehike

      I read about the FFRF one time, so I decided to sign up for their newsletter. I ended up feeling like they were the same as a church trying to convert. I’m a devout atheist, and I still thought they were a little much. Just as much as a hate being preached at, I also cringe when I hear other atheists trying to talk Christians, etc. out of their religion.

      It could be me being sensitive, and maybe they really are helpful though. I’d just be careful about swinging too far the other way.

      1. Annie The Mouse

        That’s basically my impression of FFRF too, but I’ve dealt with their legal team and they are excellent lawyers. While I understand if the OP doesn’t want to come into conflict with her employers, someday a parent will complain to somebody, and the fallout can get nasty – (reporters and TV trucks on the lawn, etc.) and people can lose their jobs. FFRF might be able to get this activity stopped quietly, which is better for everyone.

  8. Gene

    Were I in #2’s shoes, my computer would be playing Radio Freethinker podcasts, Sufi music, klesmer music, and Muslim sermons all day long.

    1. Jamie

      Then all the quiet co-workers who aren’t participating in the sermons are being bombarded by two inappropriate sources.

      Don’t forget – passive aggression causes collateral damage to innocent bystanders.

      1. Gene

        As the OP described it, it wouldn’t be long before the (also Christian) supervisor and/or director would get on my case about it. That would be actionable and would give me a clear showing of religious discrimination.

      2. Annie The Mouse

        Well said about the passive aggression. The collateral damage can get real, and really nasty, faster than you can think possible.

  9. Brett

    The huge problem with the situation for OP #2 is that they are a charter school. This is the sort of thing that gets a school shut down, and if the news media smells a meaty story like this, they will move in for the kill. The shut down can come from many levels. Most likely it would come from the charter sponsor or from the state agency that oversees charter sponsors. It could come from the state legislature, or it could come from the federal government if the school receives title I or CSP grants. Or even simple bad publicity can cause enough parents to pull their kids out to shut down the school. All of this makes charter schools more tenuous that private schools or traditional public schools.

    Some day all of this is going to come down on the school; they are doing far too much official sanctioning of religious practices on campus and the secretary is probably not the only example. That makes the OP’s job somewhat tenuous even if they are not part of the activities.

    1. Cimorene

      That’s what I was thinking as well. The LW doesn’t want the school shut down, because she likes her job and doesn’t want a new one. So that might mean that approaching the ACLU or the FFRF seem more dicey, in case her actions inadvertently shut down the school and lost her her job. But some of these practices go so far beyond the appropriate that her job security is already tenuous. Playing music is one thing, and I’d even say that giving kids religious coloring books is on one side of the line (it’s totally inappropriate, but it’s also innocuous enough that I could understand it not being a shut-down-the-school offense). Giving out Bible passages is a lot more dicey. And forcing a kid to sit on your lap while you watch a sermon on YouTube? Is just so wildly inappropriate that I can’t even believe anyone in the administration is ok with it. It’s just so far beyond the pale. It’s definitely the kind of thing that ends up with CNN reporters interviewing parents and secretaries while the ACLU takes the school to court, or something.

      If I were the OP, I might consider raising this very issue to the principal, if she thought it wouldn’t get her fired (maybe document, so there’s at least evidence that if she were fired it was because she tried to follow the law/because of religious discrimination?). I understand that some people can’t grok separation of church and state–if being a [religious affiliation] is a central part of your existence, than the idea of separating it from [national affiliation] seems impossible and irrational. But these are specific things that are clearly illegal and could very well lose them *all* their jobs.

      I would even imagine a scenario in which I overheard people talking about it–that way I could open it up with, “I overheard some parents talking, and they were really upset about the Jesus coloring books, and I realized that it’s actually really dangerous for all of us to let stuff like that continue.”

      But then, it’s easy for me to offer this suggestion, given that my employment isn’t in jeopardy.

  10. Bartleby

    #2–I agree with the many above recommendations for you to contact the ACLU (and/or Americans United for Separation of Church and State). I worked for the ACLU and I can tell you this is a situation they would take very seriously. All information you share with them is treated with strict confidentiality and they will not expose your identity to the school without your permission. They may be able to send a letter to the school explaining the illegality of this conduct and demanding that it stop.

    1. Elizabeth

      I agree. It sounds like the behavior is public enough that there wouldn’t be a way to trace who reported it. Also, contacting the ACLU does not mean automatic lawsuit – my understanding is that most of the time, just a letter is enough to make the institution take the issue seriously.

  11. JustMe

    #2: I consider myself a Christian, and I agree that this is definitely over the top. Having grown up in that churchwithstate-ish culture, I’ve seen that kind of thing before. And in that culture, most people wouldn’t give it a second thought because it is so ingrained. However, that doesn’t mean it’s right.

    After all, isn’t part of being a Christian loving, respecting, and overall being mindful of others as you would yourself?

    If I were attempting to give advice for this one, I might suggest seeing if an earphones or earbuds policy for personal music could be implemented first, as that’s probably the most distracting from your work. Then, maybe you could make the case that as your school is an educational institution, maybe the coloring books and TV shows could be educational, as well, with things like animal coloring books, and kid-friendly Discovery Channel shows.

    I do agree with the others that bringing in the ACLU, etc., could definitely be effective. However, especially if you live in that religious culture, be prepared, because the clash between the two could get ugly.

    If they aren’t listening to suggestions and you don’t feel equipped for that kind of fight, you may have to ask yourself if you really want to stay at that job.

  12. The Cosmic Avenger

    I know this sounds passive-aggressive, so let me pre-empt that by saying that an effective strategy with this kind of willful ignorance is to bust their bubble of invincibility by impressing the transgressor with the immediacy of the consequences.

    So, for example, the OP for update #2 might tell the school director (principal?), “I heard two boys out in the hall talking and one said that his parents told him it’s illegal to force them to watch this stuff, but they shouldn’t object because then they’ll be picked on, they should just wait for the school board to fix it.”

    It sounds so weaselly, I know, but if your job is on the line AND you are trying to get the zealots to change rather than get the school closed down, it might be worth a shot.

    1. Anonymous

      That’s more than just weaselly. That is how rumors start, and frankly to do that to an unknown child is ridiculous and cruel.

      1. Ruffingit

        Agreed. Make an anonymous complaint as others have suggested to the ACLU and be done with it. No need to be passive-aggressive or weaselly.

  13. Anonymous

    #4…

    I write this knowing it may not be that helpful. After our 3rd miscarriage, somebody told us about a couple that had 7 before then having a string of healthy babies. I remember after the 2nd wondering if we would ever have kids. And why on earth it mattered what somebody else had been through. :)

    Many tests later, we finally ended up with a baby via artificial insemination. Figured we may only have one kid after trying and trying for the 2nd. An adoption fell through. That was rough, too.

    And then the dam burst. We currently have 3 healthy kids and have a 4th on the way. Only the first one took extraordinary efforts. The others came after we quit trying.

    There is hope.

  14. Kimberly

    To LW 2 – I was in a similar position but a straight public school. My principal was constantly pushing religion on staff, but knew better than to push it on students. I filed a complaint through the Freedom From Religion Foundation.The FFRF sent a letter to the superintendent. The principal was called up on the red carpet, all communications sent to staff had to go through his boss the rest of the year.

    He was then moved laterally to another elementary campus. Something that DOES NOT happen in my district. My campus had problems – and he stated several times in veiled ways that he wanted to replace all the staff because we were the problem (Not the fact we couldn’t punish students for infractions because the were poor). (one time he said that he wished he could live all waivers so that he could file evaluations on all of us to insure the “right” people were let go if there was a reduction in force. Last year he handed out contracts and then said instead of signing them we should all go down the street and apply at wal-mart. His new campus hates him and are filing complaints with HR right and left. We figure he will “resign” at the end of the year.

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