This non-story was published in Saturday's Toowoomba Chronicle -
By MADELEINE LOGAN madeleine.logan @thechronicle. com.au
Noah's Ark lesson sparks school battle.
Father of five Ron Williams has lodged a complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Commission after his five-year-old Kathleen was "illegally exposed" to bible lessons during her prep class. A Toowoomba dad sparked major controversy yesterday for removing his daughter from Gabbinbar State School after she was taught the story of Noah's Ark.
Father of five Ron Williams has lodged a complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Commission after his five-year old Kathleen was "illegally exposed" to bible lessons during her prep class. However, he insists he is "not anti-religion". The long-time campaigner against the teaching of religion in schools plans to take civil legal action against Education Queensland, principal Greg Brand and classroom teacher Trina Savio on the basis religious education in prep is against policy.
His charge peaked major media interest yesterday with Mr Williams fielding calls from a New-York based journalist, in addition to several television programs. Education Queensland denies Mr Williams' claims lessons included biblical teaching. A department spokeswoman said the viewing of Evan Almighty, a Hollywood comedy about a man who builds a replica Noah's Ark, was part of a unit on animal noises. "No references to 'God' or the biblical story were made in the classroom," she said.
Mr Williams said he asked for Kathleen to be moved to an alternative prep class after spotting a bookshelf full of children's biblical titles and a large cardboard replica of Noah's Ark in her classroom. He claims this request was refused by Mr Brand and he was thus forced to remove his child from the school. Mr Williams' two oldest children still attend Gabbinbar State School.
The boys, who moved from Middle Ridge State School when it employed a chaplain, will study through distance education next year. Kathleen will attend an independent Toowoomba school.
St Bartholomew's Anglican Church Reverend Richard Harris insists Evan Almighty is not a religious movie. "This incident is sad because the film is just a great story," he said. "It's got Judeo-Christian teaching in it, but it's really about the love of family and teaching people to care about others. I'm surprised this man was offended by it." Mr Brand declined to comment and directed The Chronicle to Education Queensland. The school's website says parents are required to complete a form when enrolling their child giving permission for them to learn religious education.
A parent with a bee in his bonnet doesn't get his way, so he goes to the media, and finds an editor thick enough to listen. It was obviously a slow news day in Toowoomba.
There are a few parents in this town (mostly on the South side) who for reasons best known to themselves have been attacking state school principals about this issue. They are well-organised, and more than a little vindictive. They have every right to waste public servants' time in this fashion, but I am amazed at the reaction of the local media.
The scandal sheet that rejoices in the name of "Toowoomba Chronicle" put this on the front page. The report simultaneously manages to be both cliché-ridden and breathless , no mean feat for Madeleine Logan, although the heavy hand of Steve Etwell ("Editor"-in Chief) is apparent.
Etwell is best known for making snide remarks about people of middle-eastern origin and was outed in Mediawatch for this not too long ago. He obviously has managed to sleep through the first part of the twenty-first century.
You could excuse his reporter – she is relatively junior – but there is no excuse for an "Editor" to publish this type of gutter nonsense in something that pretends to be a provincial newspaper. Apart from the waste of front-page space, the last thing any school needs at this time of the year (characterised by the difficult combination of deadlines and seasonal goodwill) is incessant badgering by members of the fourth estate.
But then, Etwell is obviously a peddler of newsprint rather than a journalist if this is an example of his editorial activity.