A law firm representing a first grader who attends California's Helen Hunt-Jackson Elementary School made headlines earlier this month with claims that a teacher recently showed undue hostility to the child during a classroom presentation about holiday traditions. But the educator and the school's principal have now spoken out against these claims.
Brynn Williams holding her family’s Star of Bethlehem (Image source: Advocates for Faith & Freedom)
As TheBlaze previously reported, a press release from Advocates For Faith & Freedom proclaimed earlier this month that Brynn Williams was speaking to peers about her family’s faith-based Christmas tradition when her teacher abruptly stopped the address and said that Williams is “not allowed to talk about the Bible in school.”
But that teacher, Tammy Williams, has a very different story.
In an official address to the Temecula Valley Unified School Board last week, Williams offered a public statement calling the claims against her "untrue accusations." The district shared a transcript of her comments with TheBlaze Tuesday.
Rather than stopping the child because of the inclusion of Christian themes and a Bible verse in the speech, the educator said that she was under time constraints.
"I had a very limited amount of time and needed to make sure all students had time to share. Now remember, this is sharing. They were not oral reports," Williams explained. "Students were asked to share a family tradition. It could be anything, not just a Christmas tradition. During sharing, I work with students on looking at the audience and using clear voices. We also work on listening skills and asking questions."
Williams said that something unusual happened when Brynn got up to speak. The child brought in a prepared statement that was "written by one of her parents," which the teacher said was unusual; students rarely use written text during sharing time, according to Williams.
"As I held the star, the student began to read her statement. I helped her with a few words that she was having trouble with. I decided that I would have the student stop after sharing about Mary and Joseph," the teacher continued. "I felt that it would take too long and I still needed her to take her question and I had a few clarifying questions for her as well."
From there, Williams said she simply told the student to stop where she was and to take questions about her family's Christmas tradition -- a star that is put on the top of the tree each year to remember Jesus. Brynn sat down at the end of the questioning and appeared to be happy and content while additional students presented, the teacher said.
"At no time did I ever tell the student that she could not read the bottom section because it was a Bible verse nor did she ask if she could finish," Williams added. "I never told her to 'Stop right there!' or 'Go take your seat!' or reprimand her in front of the class for sharing from the Bible. It just did not happen."
The teacher said her students have always been free to share their ideas with the class and that the story was "twisted into lies and brought to the media."
This account of the Dec. 18 events is starkly different from the one originally shared by Advocates For Faith & Freedom. As previously reported, Brynn's class was reportedly assigned a simple task: bring in something from home that is representative of how each family celebrates important traditions.
The group claims that Williams told Brynn in front of the other students that she was not allowed to share Bible verses in class, forcing her to stop speaking and, thus, creating a hostile environment. Advocates For Faith & Freedom has since asked that Brynn be allowed to finish her speech in front of the class -- and receive a written apology.
While the district is still investigating the matter, Jackson Elementary School Principal Ami Paradise, who told the school board she is a Christian, defended Williams at least week's board meeting, calling her "an amazing first grade teacher" who is "one of the finest educators" she has worked with.
Paradise said that the claims against Williams and the school are both untrue and unfortunate.
"[Williams] does not deserve the harassment or bullying that she has received, the questioning of her professional skills or judgment, or the claims that she harmed this child in any way," Paradise said. "I stand behind Mrs. Tammy Williams 110 percent and find it extremely unfortunate that the Advocates for Faith and Freedom have irrevocably caused damage to her good name."
Read the original story here.
Featured image via Advocates for Faith & Freedom