By Kent Larsen
Resolution of Book of Mormon Expulsion Delayed As Lawyers Get Involved
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The Salt Lake City Board of Education has
delayed its investigation of last week's incident in which three
students were escorted from their West High School English class,
allegedly for reading the Book of Mormon during free time in class.
The school district has started an investigation into the incident,
but attorney Frank Mylar, who represents the students, objected to
the investigation's format, in which the students were questioned in
the presence of the teacher.
The students were escorted from their class last Tuesday after they
brought copies of the Book of Mormon to read during a free reading
time in their English class. The Board of Education says that the
teacher's policy was to only allow fiction during free reading time,
but the students claim they were never told that policy. Claiming
that the students were causing a disruption, the teacher then called
school security and had the students escorted out.
The incident became public last weekend when the students went to the
newspapers with their complaints. The school district launched an
investigation and early this week started interviewing students, in
the presence of the teacher, about the incident. Meanwhile, disturbed
by the event, parents of the students hired Salt Lake City attorney
Mylar, who attended at least one of the interviews. The school then
suspended its investigation. Salt Lake City Board of Education
President Kathy Black explained, "We felt that we needed to have our
attorney present, also," Salt Lake City Board of Education President
Kathy Black said. "It has delayed (the investigation) so we can get
all parties at the same table."
Mylar said he objected to the way the Investigation was being
conducted. "If you're being glared at by the teacher, who already
made the student feel extremely intimidated, it looks like [the
school] is trying to squelch [students'] stories." He also questioned
the teacher's claim that only fiction was permitted during free
reading time, "It sounds to me like it's a defensive posture," he
said. "That's apparently what the teacher is holding to, but it's
unclear at this point whether the school and school district are
getting behind that."
His clients say the teacher has a habit of making "inappropriate
comments," in class. One student, junior Christopher King, who was
not one of those who brought a Book of Mormon to class, said he was
bothered by the comments, "I'd like this to stop . . . I would like
her to keep her opinions and comments to herself so we can move on
and do what we need to in English," King said. "I don't want to hurt
her personal life or put her job in jeopardy, but I'd like her to
respect our wishes."
A school board attorney is now working on a different format for the
investigation. Meanwhile, only one of the students has returned to
the English class. "All of them, understandably, feel extraordinarily
intimidated and uncomfortable," said Mylar. "It's just like sexual
harassment. . . . You don't want the victim to be around the
perpetrator." And Mylar also says that the families of the students
will file a lawsuit if the school doesn't handle the incident
properly. He says the family is waiting to see if the school district
"can reasonably rectify the problems that have happened, address the
problems in a good way." If not, he said, "at least some, if not all"
the students' parents would be interested in suing.
Families May Sue Over Book of Mormon Incident at West High
Salt Lake Tribune 9Nov00 D1
By Ashley Estes: Salt Lake Tribune
Lawyer helping W. High pupils
Deseret News 8Nov00 D2
By Jennifer Toomer-Cook: Deseret News staff writer
4 families may sue over Book of Mormon case