Charles M. Larson versus the Provo [Utah] City School District.


Charles M. Larson
August 29, 1997

Note: This story may be freely copied and distributed and reposted on other web sites.

Dear friends,

I've been contacted recently by a growing number of concerned people from various parts of the country who have heard rumors of the legal situation that I find myself currently involved in, asking for further details. For those who do not know, I was terminated from my teaching position at a high school within the Provo (Utah) City School District in June 1993 because I was (and remain) a non-Mormon. --Not "ostensibly," "supposedly," or "allegedly," but actually terminated from my career employment for the specific reason that I am not a member of the LDS Church.

Many of you who are acquainted with non-apologetic writings about Mormonism may recognize my name as the author of By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus (Institute for Religious Research, 1992). This book is a scholarly interpretation of a series of Hieratic Egyptian funerary texts used by Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, to produce the LDS scripture known as the Book of Abraham. It is not an LDS apologetic work, but rather is written from a secular/ scientific perspective, with a concluding chapter reflecting my own traditional, orthodox Christian beliefs. Since its initial publication the book has occasionally been criticized by some LDS apologists who do not seem to approve of the conclusions it draws, yet I am pleased to report that it has achieved an excellent reputation for accuracy, reliability, and quality of research among scholarly professionals -- including some, even, who are members of the LDS Church. I have been gratified to see it become one of the preeminent reference works in the field of LDS studies, and have been deeply moved by the personal accounts of many who have been affected in a positive way by the information it contains.

More than 31,000 copies of this book were sold and distributed shortly after publication, and it continues to be in constant demand -- even to the point that the publisher has made it available in its entirety over the Internet. But, since its basic premise challenges traditional LDS doctrinal perceptions, some uninformed and highly emotional persons have attempted to brand it as an "anti-Mormon" work -- a term which I find highly objectionable as well as inaccurate. As a respected, published, non-LDS Mormon historian and as a personally committed Christian I believe most thinking persons would join me in understanding the true definition of "anti-Mormon" as something harboring or expressing an unreasoned and indefensible hatred toward the Mormon people, which does not in the remotest sense describe either me or my work. Still, there are some who seem to perceive anything that challenges their own view as bigotry, perhaps because of the bigotry within themselves. My former employer, as it turned out, was such a person.

The following account describes my experience in the order in which it occurred, from the moment Principal Gregory A. Hudnall of Independence High School was shown a copy of my book by another teacher in the summer of 1992. It tells of his immediate expression of contempt for my non-LDS religious beliefs, his subsequent instructions to others to "try to find some things to put in [Larson's] file to validate his termination," the ensuing year-long program of harassment and intimidation he instigated as an attempt to try to force me to quit voluntarily, my eventual termination under the false pretext of a nonexistent "reduction in force," his subsequent attacks upon my professional reputation and character, and my fruitless efforts to obtain resolution through appeal to school district officials. It also goes on to cover the most recent refusal of the district to cooperate with and respond to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, following the EEOC's determination that discrimination did occur, as the Commission attempted to mediate a conciliation hearing -- which has now caused the case to be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for review. Each and every charge and statement of fact you will read here is supported and corroborated by evidentiary documents, records, and signed witness statements, all of which my attorneys and I are fully prepared to present in court as the case proceeds.

Here is what happened.

I used to be a career peace officer, working with the Utah Department of Corrections at the State Prison in Draper, Utah. After ten years of this, I finally realized that I needed to do something more appropriate and meaningful with the rest of my life, something where I could feel that I was helping people to appreciate who they were and what they could become. So I left my secure state job, withdrew my retirement funds, and used them and my savings to support my family for two years while I finished up my degree in history and anthropology and obtained my teaching credentials. I received my Utah Basic Teaching Certificate in January 1991, when I was thirty-nine years of age. I initially registered within the Provo City School District as a substitute teacher as of March 1, 1991, and was interviewed and hired as a history/social studies teacher for Independence High School on July 8 that year. This was only a half-time, entry level position at the time, but I was assured that it was a "foot in the door" to being able to soon move on to a full schedule. During my first year of teaching at Independence, I developed an excellent reputation as an effective, capable teacher, earning the respect and appreciation of my students and my peers. My performance was evaluated twice during this period -- once early on by another teacher, and once near the end of the year by Principal Hudnall himself -- and received superior ratings on both occasions. For all practical purposes, I had every reasonable expectation that I would soon be able to obtain a full-time, contracted teaching position within the district or an adjoining area.

Soon after the release of my book, however, all of this changed abruptly after a copy was obtained by the husband of one of the other teachers at IHS, who then brought the book with her to school in August (just after the 1992-93 school year had begun) and allowed Principal Hudnall to see it. As he looked through the book I had written, he told this teacher that he considered the material in the book to be "anti-Mormon" and stated flatly that he was concerned about the possibility of views that might contain "an anti-Mormon slant" being taught in my classroom "as historical fact." But Hudnall expressed no intention -- then or ever -- of approaching me regarding this so-called concern in order to discuss or discover what my actual views might be, or even to try to find out whether any legitimate cause for concern even existed. Instead, he issued instructions to the teacher to "try to find some things to put in his file to validate his termination."

And, because I was never given any reason to suspect "concern" of this sort from Principal Hudnall or anyone else, I was completely unable to comprehend or protect myself from the true motive behind the adverse personnel actions I was shortly to experience.

I received the first of a long and monotonous series of deliberately "tainted" performance evaluations on August 31, 1992, just days after Hudnall had given his order to do so. Even at this point, however, while trying to follow her boss's instructions, the teacher doing the evaluation had difficulty contriving unfavorable things to say, and seems to have caught herself acknowledging my capable teaching ability and then having to "requalify" her comments in a derogatory way. In one place, for instance, she wrote, "Chuck challenges his students to active problem solving and higher level thinking skills," -- and then added lamely, "Not sure if objective is taught each day."

Not all of these "evaluations" performed during this time appear to have survived. For example, I distinctly recall being evaluated by Mrs. Judy Park (Hudnall's primary administrative assistant) at some point also during the fall of 1992, but that evaluation was not included in my records when I requested and received a copy of my "entire file" from the office at Independence High School on June 28, 1994. Of whatever other items that may have been similarly removed before preparing my copy, I have no idea.

Over the next four months I witnessed my position within the school steadily deteriorate as I found myself dropped from committees, denied assignments that were made available to others, and excluded from conversations by a growing number of staff members who seemed to enjoy Principal Hudnall's favor. At one point I offered to take on additional teaching responsibilities when the need came up for more social studies courses and there was no other social studies teacher available to take the extra classes, but my request was denied and the classes were assigned to a part-time English teacher who had little to no background in the subject area. It was during this period that I first approached Principal Hudnall to plead for more teaching hours, explaining that the cumulative effect of having received only a part-time income from teaching a half-day schedule during the previous year was having a devastating effect upon my family. His only response was to tell me that if I couldn't manage to get by on what the school had to offer, I "really ought to" be trying to find a different job.

In December 1992, just prior to the Christmas break, I was informed that effective the second semester of the school year (beginning in January) my teaching hours would be cut in half, from four hours per day to two. A new social studies teacher was hired and assigned the hours I had lost, and was immediately named as the chair of the social studies department -- a position I had held since October 1991. No explanation for either of these actions was ever offered to me. Several of my students told me that they were very disturbed about having me replaced in their classes with the new teacher, who they said was harsh, difficult to get along with, and not as knowledgeable or informed.

As the second semester began, the first week of January 1993 saw the entire school settling into a large, brand-new building. Through unavoidable construction delays, I was told, there was a temporary shortage of classroom space which should be resolved within a matter of weeks. In the meantime, I would need to hold my classes around a table in a small, crowded annex of the teacher's lounge (I was the only teacher in the school to have to do this). Through a similar type of oversight, the new textbooks and lesson materials I had ordered months previously had failed to arrive, and so my classes were forced to fall back on whatever I could improvise for them. This required a considerable amount of unreimbursed preparation time on my part for each class, each day. Meanwhile, as my wage and financial situation became more and more desperate because of my reduced hours, I took an evening job flipping hamburgers on the closing shift for a fast food chain restaurant, leaving my days open and available to be able to teach, always hoping that more teaching hours would eventually open up for me.

Even though I had by this time begun to realize that Principal Hudnall must have had some personal motive for not wanting me to remain (and I could not imagine what type of reason he could have that he would not advise me of it), I did not want to stop teaching or give up on my students. When it came time in February for each staff member to fill out and submit our annual "Letter of Intent and Planning Information Form" -- which would be used by the district to plan and facilitate the next year's staff schedule -- I put down that "Yes, I plan to return" to IHS for the next school year, or that alternatively, I was interested in a change of assignment to other high schools or junior high schools in the district.

It had now been several months since Principal Hudnall had first issued his orders to have others perform tainted performance evaluations of me in order to create a record that would show sufficient cause that it could be used to "validate" my termination -- but this effort had so far been unsuccessful. No matter how subjective these "evaluators" attempted to be, or how well they tried to respond to Hudnall's specific directions, the record they were able to produce simply was not adverse enough to support a believable attack upon my professional competence as a teacher. If taken at face value it was damaging, yes; for it no longer contained characteristics of outstanding performance as it had previously, which would certainly have the effect of hindering any prospect of my being considered for hire by another school in the future; but it was not damaging enough for Hudnall to be able to comfortably justify my termination for cause. With the end of the school year only a matter of a few months away Principal Hudnall, apparently frustrated, again spoke with the same teacher who had first shown him a copy of my book and asked her if there was anything she could think of "to put in [Larson's] file that would indicate he should not be asked to return" for the following school year.

Meanwhile, the tainted evaluations continued. Two new social studies classes opened up for the second quarter of the semester, and even though they were scheduled to follow the two-hour time block that I was scheduled to teach, and I had requested -- practically begged -- for them, the extra hours were given to the teacher who had replaced me as the department chair. Immediately afterward I received the harshest, most critical, and absurdly derogatory evaluation from that same teacher of any that I had thus far been given.

Principal Hudnall also around this time began to resort to tactics more intense than merely remaining behind the scenes and requiring others to try to provide him with material to use against me. In one instance he (falsely) reported to another teacher that I had supposedly been "spreading lies and accusations about her behind her back." This particular teacher is a sincere, sensitive, and trusting lady who is completely without guile, and she was devastated to hear of such things from her employer. Following Hudnall's accusations, her close friendship toward me became cautious and guarded. On another occasion, Principal Hudnall described me to a co-worker using the terms "crazy, a loser, an anti-Mormon," the writer of an "anti-Mormon book," and "the kind of person who would go into a McDonald's with a gun."

I of course knew nothing of the above two incidents at the time they occurred, but in yet another case Principal Hudnall called me into his office from my classroom, while I was teaching, and confronted me directly with the accusation that I had authored a District questionnaire response that reflected unfavorably upon him. The remarks in the response to this anonymous questionnaire accused Hudnall of "grandstanding, running a one-man show, demanding all of the credit for the school," and also criticized him for his policy of not allowing certified teachers to have teaching contracts. When I denied having written such a statement (I in fact had not written it), but stated that I found myself in agreement "with the part about the contracts," and with that part only, Hudnall expressed skepticism at my denial and again accused me of having been responsible for them. I repeated that I had not written them, that I was not in sympathy with the personal nature of many of them, but that I was aware of who had written them. (The lady who had written them had read them to me and to another teacher about a week earlier.) Hudnall immediately demanded to know who the writer was, and I responded that I did not feel that it was appropriate for him to ask me that question, and that it was not right for him to attempt to discover who had been responsible for making specific comments on what was supposed to be an anonymous questionnaire. (I found out within a few days' time that Principal Hudnall had called other people into his office previously regarding the memo he had received reporting these remarks, just as he had with me, and that in the course of the next week he had called practically every teacher in the school into his office in an effort to interrogate them to learn the identity of the author of the remarks in the memo. When I was eventually terminated three months later, I at the time and for nearly a year afterward believed that the motive for my dismissal was Hudnall's suspicion that I had authored those remarks. During that time, I believed that I was protecting the identity of the friend and co-worker who had written them, since I was still not aware that for the several months previous to the "memo incident" Principal Hudnall had set upon a premeditated course of trying to find a way to justify my removal based upon his discriminatory perceptions of my religious beliefs.)

During the month of April 1993, all employees were scheduled for individual interviews with the principal to review our letters of intent for the next school year and to discuss our plans. When asked what my plans were, I responded that I wished to "teach as much as possible." I told Principal Hudnall that I had been looking for a contract with other schools, but that as yet I had been unsuccessful, and would like to continue at Independence, as I had indicated in my letter of intent. He told me at this time that he was considering assigning the social studies department to the new ROTC program that the school would be starting up in the fall, and I remember telling him that I thought that might work out well, as I have had considerable military experience myself (over twenty years as a commissioned Army Reserve officer), and I could work very comfortably with other military personnel. A couple of weeks prior to this conversation the principal had held a meeting for the entire staff and assured everyone that no teaching positions would be affected by impending budget cutbacks, so I did not at this time have any reason to suspect that my job was in any jeopardy. However, within days of this interview, Hudnall told another staff member that he intended to use the ROTC program to teach social studies as an excuse to "get rid" of me.

I was evaluated one final time, by Principal Hudnall, on May 25, 1993. About a week later I received a brief notification by letter that my "position will no longer be available after this term" due to "departmental restructuring and other changes and budget cuts and restraints." When I received this notification I believed that Hudnall had actually devised a way to eliminate my position, and even though I realized that he had been trying to get me to leave voluntarily and that he did not want me to remain at IHS, I considered his explanation to be a "slick" but essentially unchallengable piece of work. My termination was subsequently reported to the District Personnel Office as a "Reduction In Force" in mid-August on a form submitted and signed by Gregory A. Hudnall. Ten days later a new social studies teacher, an uncertified intern from Brigham Young University, was hired by Hudnall and assigned to the same class schedule for the upcoming school year that I had vacated. The other two social studies teachers that had been at IHS when I left remained at their jobs, and the new ROTC department did not teach any social studies classes during the 1993-1994 school year. But I did not learn any of this, or of anything else that took place at Independence High after school started up again in the fall, until nearly a year later.

When IHS staff & employees returned at the end of summer for the new school year, Hudnall had just one small dilemma regarding my termination to have to deal with. He had represented the matter of my termination to me, to the school district, and to a handful of others who he had not confided his true motive to as being a Reduction In Force -- and yet clearly a new teacher had been hired to take my place, thus no force (as far as the social studies department was concerned) had been reduced. So, since it was no longer possible to maintain the charade that there had been a legitimate and necessary RIF, Hudnall attempted to justify my departure to the entire staff by portraying me as having been a poor teacher, a troublemaker, and an undermining influence who needed to be gotten rid of for the good of the school. At a staff mentor meeting held in late August, Hudnall instructed the staff as they gathered and met for the first time that they needed to be "very careful" as they evaluated teachers, and that it was "very important to follow correct procedures because the school was currently facing a lawsuit from one of the teachers who had been terminated at the end of the previous school year." He indicated that "this person" had been a "poor teacher who needed to be gotten rid of ," and that "from here on the school must be very careful" about how it rids itself of such people. At that point the teacher serving as the social studies chair asked if the person filing the lawsuit was me, and after seeming to hesitate at first, Hudnall soon confirmed to everyone that "the person was Chuck Larson," stating that this was "just the sort of thing one would expect" from me because I was "always discontent."

Of course this entire "lawsuit" claim of Hudnall's was totally untrue; I had had no contact with or taken any action against the school or anyone involved with it since the day I left because I honestly believed that Principal Hudnall had actually gone through the process of engineering a genuine Reduction In Force just to justify my being asked to leave, and not being aware of his motive for doing such a thing, I honestly didn't believe that I had any recourse available to me.

Not everyone was willing to accept Hudnall's statements at face value, though. A number of staff members I had previously worked alongside were disturbed by his characterizations of me, and on occasion attempted to challenge him on them. This was understandably awkward for them to do however, as it required them to walk a fine line between speaking their conscience and the demonstration of total loyalty and obedience which Hudnall characteristically demanded of his subordinates. On one such occasion, which took place a few days after the staff mentor meeting just mentioned, a teacher I had known fairly well told Hudnall that she wanted him to know she had supported me as a teacher and had always had the impression, based on our mutual students, that I had taught my students a great deal. She told him she had been surprised to hear negative things about me because she had never had that sort of impression. Hudnall responded by telling her that there was a great deal that she didn't know about my classroom and "other problems that would be inappropriate to just bring up." He told her that if she had any similar concerns in the future that she should come and discuss them with him, and that I had been a problem because I was "undermining" the school. He ended the conversation by informing her that he had already known she was supportive of me because he had "received a letter with a list of people who were sympathizers" -- intimating to her that the letter had come from my attorney and that the list was of those who would speak in my behalf.

There was no such list, of course. There was never any lawsuit and there was no attorney, and any "list" Hudnall may have had would be one he had been preparing himself.

Others at the school were told similar things on different occasions as Principal Hudnall continued to justify my dismissal by degrading my character and competence right up through the end of the year, challenging and intimidating anyone who came forward to speak up in my defense.

As I mentioned before, I first began to learn of these things in May 1994, just as the school year was drawing to a close. At that time I was contacted by some former co-workers representing a group of IHS teachers and staff who said they had finally recognized and grown weary of the unethical behavior and abuse of authority practiced by Principal Hudnall, and had decided to present evidence of their concerns to the Provo City School District. There were many in this group who felt I had been unfairly treated during my final year at the school -- including some who deeply regretted having allowed Hudnall to persuade them to assist him in his discrimination as a test of their own "loyalty" to him -- and so I was invited to enter into a group grievance regarding complaints about Hudnall's malfeasance that would be brought before the District. By the 20th of May, when the grievance letter was turned in, it contained the signatures of twenty-four current, former, and soon-to-be-former staff and employees of Independence High School.

At the time I was preparing my initial grievance statement to accompany this group letter there was plenty of evidence of malice on Hudnall's part in arranging my wrongful termination, but as of then I had not yet discovered that the motive for this malice was linked to discrimination and persecution on the basis of my religious beliefs. This I would learn as I continued to collect evidentiary records and statements from June on up through September. I would later revise this first draft into my final grievance version which I read before Mr. Thomas Carter, District Personnel Director, who presided over the District Grievance Hearing on September 7, 1994. My statement presented evidence and charges which focused solely upon the matter of wrongful discharge by false pretext, and sought only remedies to that issue which were within the ability of the District to deal with. I informed the Hearing Officer that I was deliberately avoiding any mention of evidence linked to motive or malice on Hudnall's part, as I had discovered that such aspects broached serious Title VII issues and, being beyond the scope of the District to address satisfactorily, I wanted to reserve the right to pursue separate legal action regarding them.

In spite of the relatively serious nature of the charges and evidence that my grievance contained, I received notification by mail a month later that the Hearing Officer had decided to reject my grievance as "not timely filed" (-- by District written policy: "claim must be presented within thirty calendar days after the aggrieved person knew, or should have known, of the act or condition on which the grievance is based"). This was an expedient move which had the effect of allowing the District to avoid confronting or even addressing the issue and evidence of wrongful termination they had been shown. They were now free to categorize my termination as a legitimate Reduction In Force -- just as Hudnall had reported it -- and thus remain free of liability or the need to provide remedy.

I wrote a letter to Mr. Carter challenging this decision, as I had not actually "known" of the false pretext of my termination until May 1994, and I had registered my grievance with the District well within thirty days of when I became aware of it. I pointedly asked how it was reasonable to expect that I "should have known" Hudnall was lying to me, the District, and to others back in 1993? A courtesy copy of this letter was also mailed to Dr. Mike Jacobson, the District Superintendent.

I never received a reply or any further communication from either. At that point it occurred to me that the District had elected to violate its own written policy (or at the very least stretch its interpretation beyond a believable limit) in order to dispose of the issue and take the position offered by Hudnall that nothing inappropriate had taken place, and that it was not interested in correcting a serious problem if it meant admitting that the problem existed.

When I submitted my charge of Title VII (religious) discrimination to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that fall, the Cause of Action was against Gregory A. Hudnall and the Provo City School District. The basis for the inclusion of the District in the charge is actually quite straightforward: Since Principal Hudnall derives his authority from the District, any actions taken by him that can be shown to be discriminatory are the responsibility of the District. The District could choose to mitigate its liability for such actions by making prudent, appropriate, and timely response to them; or, conversely, any actions by the District in support or defense of actions taken by Hudnall that can be shown to be discriminatory, or arising from them, are in effect a continuation of that discrimination.

The discriminatory motive for Hudnall's decision to initiate a program of harassment, persecution, intimidation, and slander which would eventually deprive me of my employment can be traced to his reaction to seeing a copy of my book and his strong expressions of disapproval for my religious beliefs -- which were immediately followed by his orders to "evaluate Chuck to try to find some things to put in his file to validate his termination." This -- and every act that grew out of it -- constitutes a pattern of Title VII discrimination. His false report of a "Reduction In Force" in order to provide a cover of justification for his true discriminatory motives for terminating me is a continuation of this discrimination, as is the District's acceptance of his report and its unfounded insistence, in the face of contradicting evidence, upon recognizing my termination status as being legitimate. The District's failure to accord me appropriate re-employment rights under that status is a further continuation of this discrimination, as is the District Personnel Director's violation of District policy in wrongfully dismissing my grievance for timeliness in order to avoid having to confront the issues relating to wrongful termination that were charged.

The EEOC agreed. Following an investigation that lasted nearly two and a half years, the Phoenix District Office on February 26, 1997 issued a Determination on my charge stating that "Testimonial evidence confirms Charging Party was harassed and intimidated when his Principal learned he had published a book in the spring of 1992, which [Principal] considered to be anti-Mormon. . . Subsequently, Charging Party was terminated under the guise of job elimination, and an uncertified female intern was hired to perform his duties. . . Charging Party's termination was pretextual and he was not considered for rehire because of his religion, non-Mormon."

(For those of you who may not be experts on constitutional law, I am told that the great majority of such cases are determined to fall under the mixed motive category -- i.e., so much one party's fault, so much the other party's fault, and so forth. A pretextual determination, on the other hand, is extremely uncommon, and is the strongest possible language of condemnation that can be expressed. Basically, it means that the party did wrong, knew at the time that they were doing wrong, and lied in an effort to cover it up.)

The District Superintendent publicly denounced this finding, declaring in an article in Provo's local newspaper that my charge amounted to "the same old junk," and that "the EEOC has no authority." Four months later, after the District had refused to respond to the EEOC's invitation to participate in a conciliation hearing, the case was referred to the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington D.C. for review to determine whether the Government will sue under Title VII.

If the DOJ does decide to bring a lawsuit against the Provo City School District on my behalf, I am prepared to intervene. I am also at this time very well represented by both staff and cooperating attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, which has agreed to take on my case in the interest of protecting my First Amendment rights -- and that means everyone's First Amendment rights. I am very grateful to them and to their supporters for this outstanding and generous assistance. We anticipate filing charges in the very near future, following consultation with the Department of Justice, and I will post further details as they occur.

I would like to close by offering a view of my reaction to this entire experience, to try to put into words some idea of the extent to which all of this has caused me and my family to suffer, handicapped my prospects, and thwarted my opportunities for a teaching career.

Probably the most insidious thing about discrimination is that it can produce its effect and take its toll without its victim even being aware of its course. All during my final year at Independence High School I watched in total bewilderment as my working and living conditions deteriorated more and more each week. Co-workers I had thought I knew and could rely upon turned their backs on me, assignments were denied me, classes were taken from me and given to others who seemed to have been hired for no other reason than to cut down the number of hours that I was allowed to work, and my income -- barely enough to scrape by on with difficulty to begin with -- was reduced to the point where my monthly take-home pay could not even equal the amount of my monthly mortgage payment. All of my bills kept getting further and further behind as I struggled to meet the most basic necessities, and eventually I had to sell many of the artifacts and historic objects I had spent a lifetime collecting, and which I used to bring to my history classes for my students to pass around, handle, and explore with their minds. I even had to cancel my modest life insurance policy because I couldn't afford to keep up the small premiums. We had no health insurance, no savings, no credit, no retirement. On several occasions (including the Christmas of 1992) I had to go to the Community Action Center's emergency food pantry in order to ask for groceries for my family, an experience that always left me with conflicting emotions. While on the one hand I wanted to feel grateful to be able to get some help, I couldn't help but wonder why a teacher shouldn't be able to feed his own family, and I felt self-conscious and ashamed. I will never forget one of the times I went to the Center to get food, and was met at the application counter by one of my own students who was there doing volunteer work for the day. But even more degrading than that, the worst part of it all, was whenever I would try to seek help or understanding from the one person who had the power to restore my hours or even explain what was happening or why, and all the comment I ever got from Principal Hudnall was to be told that if I couldn't manage to get by with what the school had to offer me, I really ought to be seeking work elsewhere.

But I didn't quit voluntarily. Even though I sought transfer to a different school within the District if a vacancy should open up, I wanted to remain with the students that I had grown to care about and feel a burden for. Call it a "teacher thing," or whatever. I wanted to be able to believe that whatever was going on, things would sooner or later have to straighten out and get better. I wanted to be loyal to my students, even if it meant going through a brief but unfathomable period of sacrifice for their sake. And then, even that was taken from me.

I will never know of or have any means of countering the full range of Hudnall's disparaging comments about me to others. This type of damage is subtle and pervasive, and increases geometrically from the point at which it begins. It is irreversible and irreparable.

When I couldn't manage to obtain another teaching position anywhere in the area, and all the while the District remained silent about re-employment, I felt frustrated and hurt. When I learned that my termination had been based on a false pretext, I felt betrayed. When I learned that Hudnall's motive for his actions against me had been based on his prejudice toward my religious beliefs, I felt outraged. And when I tried to turn to the District for some form of justice, or relief, or even just acknowledgment, and was dismissed in order for them to be able to avoid admitting that a problem existed, I don't know what I felt anymore.

As a people, we look to our government to provide us with justice through law. The law cannot outlaw prejudice. The best it can hope to do is to make prejudice less fashionable by outlawing those acts of discrimination that prejudice spawns. But of what value is even the best intentioned law if those who willfully scorn and violate it are not made to be held accountable for their actions?

Charles M. Larson

August 29, 1997


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