Prayer in public schools is a controversial subject — one that riles both social conservatives and ardent atheist activists, alike. Considering the furor surrounding the subject, one public school teacher’s recent actions and the New York City Department of Education’s response are noteworthy.

Last week, The New York Daily News reported that Michelle Schindelheim, 47, a teacher in NYC, was recently disciplined after she admitted ordering her students at Bronx Middle School 301 to pray to Jesus. Administrators first took notice of the church-state violation in March 2011, after students complained that Schindelheim was forcing Christian prayers on them.

NYC Public School Teacher Orders Kids to Pray to Jesus & Keeps Her Job

Photo Credit: Associated Press

According to her pupils, right before Christmas 2010, the English as a Second Language teacher apparently stopped class and asked her students to speak to the Christian savior. Not only were the youngsters told to talk to the Lord, but she apparently also asked them to “sit in a circle and sing” as well.

The students reportedly recited the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish and Schindelheim called her priest, putting him on speakerphone so that he could hear the prayers. And, to add icing to the proverbial cake, she also asked her class to “re-enact scenes from the life and death of Jesus.”

When she was later questioned about the incident, the teacher, who has been instructing in the city for the past 21 years, confessed to the aforementioned allegations. Schindelheim told officials that she now recognizes that it was a bad idea, The Daily News reports. She credited her actions to extreme stress that she was experiencing in her personal life at the time.

NYC Public School Teacher Orders Kids to Pray to Jesus & Keeps Her Job

The veteran teacher also admitted that she knew this sort of curriculum wasn’t appropriate for public school students. Not long after the incident took place, Schindelheim took a medical leave. While the district inevitably disciplined her, she has been permitted to keep her job, but was given a letter in her file as a result of the incident.

Considering the ongoing battles that rage over the separation of church and state, the teacher’s actions were clearly controversial. While some would have advocated for her dismissal, the district chose to keep her on staff.

Considering this scenario and another involving alleged Islamic indoctrination on the part of a teacher in Virginia, TheBlaze has a variety of questions about the separation of church and state. Should the NYC teacher have been fired? Should public school teachers have the right to read the Bible and recite prayers in classrooms? Take our Urtak poll, below:


Prayer in Public Schools

(H/T: New York Daily News)