ChildCare Action Project: Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP)

Quest for Fire at 6:
Chronology of Events

Following is an accounting of the events surrounding the exposure of a 6 year old child to the ignominy of Quest for Fire (R) at a public school right here in the heart of Texas, Ferris Elementary School in Ferris, Texas. The accounting is from the parents of the girl, Gilbert and Tawny Abalos. Thispage will be updated as events progress.

Please understand that we accept that Ferris Elementary and the school disctrict is a good organization and is focused on providing quality education to the children in their temporary care. We feel that this event is at the deliberate choosing of only one individual and does not bear any approval of the school or the school district. However, we further believe that while the relationship between parents and the school is a partnership, it must be that the parents are the senior partners.

You are welcome to leave us comments for the Abalos family. We will ensure they receive any intelligent and mature comments presented in a civil tone.

Thomas A. Carder
ChildCare Action Project: Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP)

Wednesday, September 1st
I, Tawny Abalos, picked up my daughter from Ferris Elementary school. When she got in the car, her first words were, "Mommy! We saw a gross movie in school today. It showed a stick going through a man's mouth and it came out the back of his head." I asked her where she saw this. She said that in her art class they were studying cave art and her teacher wanted to show them what cavemen were like. We immediately drove to the video store. The clerk helped us locate "Quest for Fire." I thought surely this couldn't be it because it was rated R. My daughter looked at the video cover and said, "Those are the men we saw." I rented it and went home and viewed it. What I had to view made me sick. There was violence, nudity, cannibalism, and several forms of sex acts. This movie should be rated X in my opinion. My daughter described what she was shown. She said that, " in the beginning, you see the cavemen all laying around and you can see parts of them without their clothes." She said that the art teacher would stop the video, fast-forward it, and then start it again. "Then they saw the scary fighting and the cavemen eating an animal and part of his insides were laying out." Then she described them being chased up a tree by some tiger with big teeth. Then they feed some grass to a mammoth, like a hairy elephant." My daughter still described seeing nudity and frightening violence. To get to the scenes she describes, you must fast-forward over sex, oral sex, and cannibalism. There were ape-monster-looking creatures beating other cavemen with rocks, blood, and cavemen eating off of an animal leg with the animal's liver on the fire. My daughter was afraid to go to bed that night and is still having nightmares.

I first called my daughter's homeroom teacher that evening. She said she had no idea that this was shown. She said that she knew that the art teacher had been teaching about cave art for several years, so she questioned her own daughter, who is in the third grade, as to whether or not she had seen this movie. To her surprise, her daughter had seen it in first grade also (I guess this movie must have made an impact on her to be able to remember it 2 years later). I then called an acquaintance from school who's husband is on our school board and who's daughter is in my daughter's class. She said she had no idea about the movie. She said I should talk to the principal in the morning.

Thursday, September 2nd
First thing in the morning I went to the principal. As I arrived, she was just ending a meeting with the art teacher (apparently one of the people I talked with alerted her that evening). The principal said that she had just viewed the movie and had taken it from her. She said that the teacher admits to having been showing this movie for several year and that no one knew. The principal said our vice principal even had to walk a student in to the art class while the movie was on and she didn't notice that there was anything wrong. She said that the teacher demonstrated to her how she fast-forwarded the movie so that the "bad" parts weren't seen. The teacher has very poor judgement as to what "bad parts" are because my daughter has been traumatized by what she considered alright to view. I said, "The problem with this film is that it is rated R. I don't care if she fast-forwarded it. I told the principal that my daughter saw nudity. She said, "Well, the teacher is an art teacher. She probably viewed it like you would a naked statue- that it is art." I told her that that movie was not art and that my child is only 6 years old! The principal said, "I told [the teacher] that the violence in it was too much and she won't be showing it again." I asked her what actions were going to be taken. She said that she was going to put out a memo immediately stating that all movies in the elementary are to be rated G only and that anything from home must be approved by her. She said that all books, library books or videos have always been approved by the principal or the school board." I told her that the school shows a movie of people being stabbed and beating each other with rocks, and then they send them back to their class and expect them to behave. She said, "Yes, I know." She said " I told [the teacher] that the fighting scenes were innappropriate. Maybe it's something for high school , but not elementary." I said, "This is rated R! It is inappropriate for anyone under 18. Have you seen the parts that the teacher has fast-forwarded over?" She said, "No, but I plan to." I said, "This movie should be rated X!! The principal said, "I think the teacher was just trying to give some "history" on cavemen because she was teaching about cave art." I said, "But she doesn't teach history, she teaches art. Her curriculum is not approved." I asked her what action was going to be taken against the teacher and she said that the movie had been taken away and it won't be shown again. I knew she had the teacher's best interests at heart before my child's, so I left.

My husband, Gilbert then went and spoke with an official at 1:30 that same afternoon. The official told Gilbert that he had already been informed about the situation by the principal. He also said that the video tape had been confiscated and assured Gilbert that it would never be shown again. Gilbert asked him what was going to be done to the teacher. He said that she would be reprimanded with a write-up in her file. Gilbert told him, "That isn't good enough." The official then asked what we wanted done. Gilbert told him that she should never teach in Ferris I.S.D. again. The official said, "That would never happen, not for something of this nature." Gilbert then asked him if this was final- if that is all he was going to do. He said, "Yes, as far as I am concerned it was resolved." Gilbert then said that he was going through the proper channels and that we would not stand alone. The offical said the teacher had been teaching there for more than ten years and there would not be any further discipline.

Friday, September 3rd
I, Tawny Abalos spoke with a school board member on the telephone in the evening. He said that our next step will be to get on the agenda for the next school board meeting on September 21st. He explained to me that I needed to request in writing, no later than 72 hours before a board meeting that I be placed on the agenda. He said I could not discuss the teacher by name or they would have to stop the meeting and go into a private session. I said, "what if my topic is (Discussion of Policies of Movies Shown At School)?" He said, "Yes, then you would get everyone you want to speak to sign in when they get there. They will each get 3-5 minutes to speak about anything. When you're done, I will request a private session so that action can be taken." I said, "Have you seen the video? Because this involves your daughter too?" He said, "Yes, I rented it today and watched it with the principal and the superintendent. I hope my daughter didn't see the sex, but the violence was bad enough." I then asked him if he knew if it was legal for me to pass out flyers at the school to notify parents of what has happened so they could attend the school board meeting. He said he didn't know. I said, "You know, the only other way is if we put an article in the newspaper and I'm afraid that might put a bad light on our school district. It's not the school district we're mad at, it is the teacher." He said, "I know. I understand." I said, "Okay, I guess we'll just see you at the board meeting." He said, "Let me know if you need anything else." I said, "Okay, Thanks."

Tuesday, September 7th
Gilbert called another offical to ask him some questions we had about what was required in the school board meeting. After he had answered Gilbert's questions, Gilbert asked the official if he had talked with the School Board President as he said he would. He said yes. He said that the principal and the superintendent had apologized to him for showing this movie to his daughter and that the teacher is being written up and he is satisfied with that. (We thought, "It must be nice to be on the school board and have them apologize to you, because if you are just a nobody parent like us, then you don't count). We knew he would be of no further help, so we politely ended the conversation.

Wednesday, September 8th
I, Tawny Abalos took my daughter into the school that morning. I immediately saw the principal and I asked her for a moment of her time. We went into her office. I told her that, "Today is art day and we would like to take her out of that class until this situation is resolved." She said that was no problem and that she could take PE with another class during the same time. That would mean she would have it twice a day on Monday and Wednesdays. I told her that was fine. I then showed her a copy of a flyer I had made and asked her if I could pass it out on the school grounds to inform parents of what has happened. She said that, "Because of the level you have decided to take this, that I should just direct everything to the superintendent for now on." I said that was fine but that I was trying to follow the procedures that were in our school handbook. She said, "I heard you have a petition going around." I said, "No." She said, "Well, all kind of rumors are going around." I said, "Okay." I said, "We don 't think this is a bad school. On the contrary, we think it is good and we like the dress codes you have in place. We just don't think this one teacher should be teaching here. She said, " Well, I've already disciplined her." I said, "Well, I guess we'll just have to go to the school board." She said, "Okay." I left.

After picking my daughter up from school, I went to see the official my husband had seen earlier. I came to ask him for a copy of our school's policy on showing movies in school. He told me that I would have to request it in writing and there would be a charge for the copies. I then asked for a copy of the memo the principal promised to pass out at the elementary school. He said, "That is an internal memo and we won't be giving you a copy." I told him that as a parent I should have access. I told him I would see him at the next school board meeting. He then proceeded to inform me that I had failed to follow proper procedures for doing so. He said that I still had to file a complaint with the District Hearing Officer. I told him that our school handbook states that you first go to the principal, second to the superintendent, and third to the school board. I told him to show me in writing where it gave this additional step he pointed out. He got out a big book with blue pages and showed me a paragraph that stated that level two was, "superintendent or designee." I said alright. I did go to the superintendent. It states, "or" which means either/or. He argued that it means go to the superintendent but if there is an additional designee then you go to them first. I told him, "I don't know what kind of game you are playing or run-around you are giving me, but don't think that you are going to wear me down because we will follow this thing all the way through." I then asked him for the name of the school board's attorney. He said, "Well, we have several." I said, "Okay, then name them." He said, "I'll have to get that." I said, "Okay, I'm waiting." He left the room and returned several minutes later. He said, "Okay, if you just want to send letters out to whoever, you can write [name and address withheld]." I then asked to whom I should send my written request for the policy on showing movies. He said, "That would be our Records Management." I then said, "Well, if I am supposed to file a complaint with him, then let me see him now." He had me wait in the front office while he filled in [Records Management]. Then I was taken to the Records Management office. I asked [Records Management] if I really was supposed to be filing a complaint with him. He said, "Yes. It just hasn't happened in the 3 years I've been working here. Usually the problem just comes up at the school board." He said, "I need you to fill out a complaint form, but since I've never had to do it, I don't even have a form for you to fill out. Can I make a form on my computer and send it to you? I will even bring it by your house if you like? I told him I had a fax and her could send it to me. I said, "Is this just a ploy to hold up this meeting so that I won't be able to get on the school board agenda on the 21st?" He said, "Oh no. We will meet as soon as possible when you turn in your complaint." I left. Wednesday night I received a fax from the PTO president. I was shocked at the position she was taking and I replied back to her. [Letters]

Thursday, September 9th
After the treatment we have received, we have decided to bring in the media. At 10am I gave my information to the Ennis Daily News in Ennis. Then at 11 am, I gave my statement to the Ellis County Press. They were more than willing to hear my story as they themselves said they have heard stories of this same teacher showing nudity in her art classes. They informed me that because of her husband's wealth and her name, they were certain the school board would not budge on this situation. They said they would attend the school board meeting. They advised me to call the ACLJ and the Rutherford Institute, both of which I have already contacted. Around noon, I dropped off our complaint form, along with written request for the policy on showing movies in school and the memo the principal had promised to distribute. [Records Management] asked me if we could meet on Monday the 13th at 3pm for our hearing. I agreed.

**Last year we had a problem with this same teacher. Our daughter would cry every time it was art day. She said that the teacher spoke mean to her. She said she would grab papers out of her hand and tell her that she was doing it wrong in a mean way. We spoke to my daugther's homeroom teacher and then her art teacher. The art teacher said she had been meaning to talk to us because our daughter would cry in class for no reason. She said this was usually a sign that there was a problem at home and she thought my husband and I were probably going through a divorce. We were insulted! We told her that the way she talked to her is why she was crying. The teacher said, "Oh, so she is over-sensative." I said, "No. She isn't used to being talked to that way at home."

Now here we are, just weeks into the new school year and this happens. This teacher has not shown care compassion or concern for these children. She has shown terrible judgement. People wonder today about what is happening with our youth today and why thing like "Columbine" happen. I think it happens as a result of situations like this not being taken seriously. This teacher violated the law by showing an R rated movie without parental consent. We are asking for the teacher's resignation or termination to end this situation to our satisfaction.

Monday, September 13th
I, Tawny Abalos arrived at 9:30am at the elementary school to volunteer to work in the school book fair for the day. I started helping one of the office aides, [name withheld] in setting up tables in the book fair room. While carrying one of the tables in the book fair room, the vice principal came running down the hall and told me to put the table down. She said that the school didn't have insurance on me if I was to hurt my back and that a school employee would have to move it. I just shook my head and smiled. I then went into the book fair room and started pulling books out of the boxes to set up. The principal cam in the room and said that she needed to pull out all the books that were inappropriate. She pulled out some with ghost stories, gargoyles, "Goosebumps", "Teletubbies" and the like. The school counselor, [name withheld] was in the room when I made a comment about some p[pencils we had for sale. I said, "These pencils with the aliens on them are ugly." She said, "Oh, I'm glad you said something. I didn't think about those." She then pulled out all pencils that had aliens, peace symbols or yin yang symbols. While I was working a teacher came in and was talking with [the office aide]. She said, "I see you have 'Free Willey' video for sale. You better check and see if it is okay to sell now that they are getting so picky about videos." {The office aide] went to the office with the videos and came back and put them in a box. She said she was told not to sell them. I took a break to have lunch with my daughter in the cafeteria. While eating, a friend and mother to one of the children in our school come to say :Hi" to me. She talked later that evening and she informed me that while she was at the school, and after she was seen talking with me in the cafeteria, that someone in the office asked her "What my deal was." My friend stated, "Let me tell you about her. She works her [hind end] off in our community. They are great parents. If Tawny thinks there is a problem, there must be something wrong." I worked in the book fair until 2pm and then went home to pick up Gilbert. We picked up our daughter and then went meet [the District Hearing Officer] at the administration office for our 3pm appointment. We gave a tape-recoded statement of our grievance and were told we would have his decision by Thursday, at which time if we were not pleases with the ruling, we could give our request to be placed on the agenda [for the next school board meeting]. We told [the District Hearing Officer] we wanted to give him the letter right then. He said that he would have to take in under protest because we would be putting the cart before the horse. We had him turn the tape recorder on and verify that we had until Friday the 17th at noon to turn in our request to be placed on the agenda. We then thanked him for his help and told him that we felt he was the only one trying to help us. We left.

Wednesday, September 15th
On Wednesday morning at 8am, I Tawny Abalos dropped off a letter requesting a copy of our tape recorded meeting on September 13th at 3pm. Then later that same day, at 2:15pm, I received a call from [the District Hearing Officer] saying that he had his decision. I stopped by his office at 3pm to pick up a copy and he told me that the original was being mailed by certified letter to me. He again reminded me that I could request in writing that I be placed on the agenda [for the next school board meeting]. I read the letter which stated that our request for termination of the teacher was being denied. It stated, "The District Attorney could not cite any civil or criminal law that would apply in this situation and that the teacher made reasonable attempts to edit the inappropriate material." O left to mail an information packet to The Rutherford Institute and while at the post office, I mailed a certified letter to the superintendent which requested that we be placed on the agenda. I then went back to the administration office and handled the secretary my request and informed her that my letter was for the superintendent.

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Thomas A. Carder
ChildCare Action Project: Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP)

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