KATY, Tx. - Wednesday, the Katy Independent School District said it could find no students that would corroborate a 7th grader's claim that a reading teacher challenged her faith in God for a graded assignment. But there are children who could have backed up Jordan Wooley's assertions if they had only been asked.
"My son said the exact same thing that Jordan said," said Deanna, who didn't want her full name made public to protect her son's identity.
Katy ISD has been refuting claims by 12-year-old Jordan that there was a heated religious discussion over the existence of God in her reading class at West Memorial Junior High Monday.
Deanna says her son had the same controversial assignment on the same day, just in an earlier class.
"I asked him what were the instructions for the assignment? He said, 'well we had to look at these statements and decide if it was fact, opinion, or myth."
But, the school district claims the word myth was never used by the teacher. As seen on the paper itself, the assignment was to distinguish between fact, opinion, and commonplace assertion. So Deanna asked her son to clarify.
"How did the word myth come into it?" She says she asked her son. "He said we didn't know what commonplace assertion meant so we asked the teacher. She said the definition of commonplace assertion is myth. So, we referred to it as myth in the class after that."
The school district also claims that the assignment was never intended to be for a grade, despite the paper indicating that section was worth 20 points. Deanna says her son certainly thought it was for a grade.
"He told me that he absolutely was under the impression it was a graded assignment. That's why they had the discussion of whether it would be right or wrong," Deanna said. "That's why he felt pressured, and he actually gave in, and changed his answer."
The big difference between her son's class and Jordan's class, was that no one challenged the teacher about whether God was a fact or a myth.
"My son said it was not argumentative in their class. He says no one pressed her or argued with her." But, Deanna said she wanted an explanation on that, too. "I said why not? Why didn't anyone say anything? And he said, 'well, I guess because at the beginning of the year she told her class that she has a dark side, and they don't want to see that side come out.'"
Two other parents told FOX 26 their children also heard the teacher say the same thing at the beginning of the year, intimidating them into not challenging her.
But, Jordan did challenge the teacher. As Jordan told the KISD school board Monday night, her Christian faith tells her God is real, a fact. That's when what had potential to be a discussion, got very contentious, in Jordan's opinion. KISD Superintendent Alton Frailey claimed Wednesday that the exchange in the class never got hostile, as Jordan described.
FOX 26 spoke with another parent who said their child was in Jordan's class that day. That student also told her parents what happened in class was disturbing.
"She was very upset, almost in tears because of the argument with the teacher," the mother said during an Internet talk show hosted by the Republic Broadcasting Network. "The teacher told all of them it was going to be graded, and if you don't put what she tells them, then you're going to get it wrong."
FOX 26 spoke with both the mother and the father of this child, via phone, but they did not want to be interviewed on camera. FOX 26 knows their identity, but the parents did not want to have their names made public, worried about backlash against their child.
Thursday, the mother of this student sent FOX 26 a text message saying, "Seeing what Jordan is being put through at school, I am personally concerned for my child's safety."
Jordan's mother, Chantel Wooley, says her daughter is going through a difficult time right now. Thursday, she says, the principal of West Memorial Junior High approved her request to move out of that teacher's classroom.
Backlash, and fear of backlash, is a huge concern of Katy ISD parents. FOX 26 has talked to many in connection with several stories about the school district, who echo the concerns about publicly criticizing Katy ISD. The common thread is that speaking up will only make things worse for their child, and not spark any rational discussion about how the district could do a few things better.
The intimidation factor could be one reason why the district couldn't find another student that would back up Jordan's claims. But Deanna says, it also could be that they simply didn't try very hard.
"I sent two emails to the principal and I haven't heard a thing," she told FOX 26.
Perhaps the principal didn't realize how angry she was about the teacher's assignment and the impact it had on her child? That's not likely, Deanna said.
"I expressed to her that I felt his constitutional rights had been violated, and that I thought she [the teacher] broke the law, quite frankly, putting God on an assignment in public school," Deanna said. "I was horrified."
Wednesday, Superintendent Frailey said this:
"If I had any reason to believe or evidence to support that a teacher did what has been alleged I would stand with Jordan as well."
FOX 26 will follow up with the school district to see if it will reopen its investigation.