Although Halloween is still a few days away, the witching hour arrived early in some American classrooms. Last week, former Utah public school teacher Erin Jensen took the stand in court and testified: "I am not a witch." Jensen, who was laid off at the end of the 2003-2004 school year, is suing her former district employers for discrimination, accusing them of firing her for being a woman and a non-Mormon. Let's assume she's right. Board members insist that Jensen was the victim of a necessary staff reduction, but others see it differently. One community member said Jensen "kept blood in the fridge." The minutes from a district board meeting record that Jensen "prefers the dark side," though this comment was later deleted (or, perhaps, magically erased?) from the public record. But the most damaging evidence is that Jensen has been known to teach that there are different belief systems in the world ... while she drinks coffee! Witches aren't the only ones haunting schools. Vampires, too, have made an October appearance, most notably in North Carolina where a teacher's assistant is charged with biting a student. Although Shirlene Huffman, the gnawer in question, contends that she was only retaliating against a student who bit her first, Gadfly isn't fooled by that old vampire's excuse. Unfortunately, teacher unions, always wary of witch hunts, have made it nearly impossible for schools to fire vampires, zombies, or other ghoulish characters (unless they, like Utah's Jensen, also make the mistake of challenging their students). So get out your garlic necklaces, kids - schools are even scarier than you imagined.
"Ex-teacher says discussion in classes about world beliefs led to witch rumors," by Pamela Manson, Salt Lake Tribune, October 22, 2005
"N.C. teacher charged with assault after biting accusation," Associated Press (reprinted in Raleigh News & Observer), October 20, 2005