TEACHER SAYS RELIGION PLAYED A ROLE IN ‘93 DISMISSAL
Provo District disagrees. Larson says ouster had nothing to do with money.
By Sharon M. Haddock, Deseret News staff writer
PROVO -- A teacher who claims he was fired from Provo District's alternative high school in 1993 over religious differences says the information being supplied to district officials by the school principal is faulty.
The district is saying religion did not play a part in the teacher's dismissal.
Charles M. Larson, of Orem, who taught social studies part-time at Independence High School in 1993, lost his job when the school brought in the U.S. Army's Junior ROTC program.
School principal Greg Hudnall informed Larson in a letter dated May 27, 1993, that departmental restructuring, other changes and budget cuts made his position "no longer available after this term."
Larson says the real reasons have nothing to do with economics or a reduction in force. "They did not save a nickel," said Larson. "The JROTC is funded through a grant, and the salaries for a lieutenant [colonel] and a sergeant are considerably more than what they were paying two part-time people."
Provo City School District Superintendent Michael Jacobsen said Hudnall felt the school could not afford the positions held by Larson and a part-time media coordinator. Hudnall said the school originally expected to get a fully funded ROTC program but ended up having to pay half of the cost of $60,000.
But Larson feels he was dismissed because he is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and because he wrote a book Hudnall did not like.
"Please don't describe it as an anti-LDS book," said Larson. "It is not. 'By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus' is a scholarly work although the conclusions do differ with orthodox LDS interpretations. This is not a Mormon vs. non-Mormon issue. It's a question of fairness."
Larson filed a grievance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which subsequently informed the district of the charge of discrimination.
EEOC officials informed the district of the charge in September 1994 and again in October 1996, said Jacobsen. "I wrote a response and then heard nothing for two years. Then, all of a sudden, we get another letter saying they have collaborating evidence of discrimination as well as harassment and intimidation."
Jacobsen said he's never given legal testimony about the dismissal, and Larson never reapplied for his position after it opened up again the next fall. Larson linked his complaint with those of more than a dozen other teachers who banded together a year later in a lawsuit against the district over hiring practices at Independence.
Jacobsen said that group is clearly not happy with Hudnall because he does not hire certified teachers under contract at Independence.
Also, while Jacobsen said he respects the EEOC's right to register an opinion, he doesn't believe the organization has any real power and said it cannot dictate to the district.
Larson believes if the EEOC signs on as a litigant in the case, they will expect to pursue in court an acknowledgment of offense on the part of the district. The district will be asked to take action to ensure such discrimination is not repeated and to take the law seriously.
"The district superintendent has erred in his assessment of the situation," said Larson. "Ten days after I was let go, he (Hudnall) hired an uncertified female intern to take my class schedule."
"I can't really get into the exact nature of the evidence, but I can say the EEOC is looking at this very, very closely."
Jacobsen said the matter has been turned over to the district's legal counsel, Mark F. Robinson.
Hudnall says he has no personal problem with Larson's book. "I'm not at odds with people over religion," he said.
"It didn't cause a problem for me. There was nothing for me personally. Religion is a non-issue at my workplace."
The article in the BYU DAILY UNIVERSE dated April 18, 1997 was the next to appear.
From: THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, Friday, July 25, 1997, p.D1
Rolly & Wells/Paul Rolley and JoAnn Jacobsen-Wells
BOMBS BURSTING AWAY
As Provo residents sat in Cougar Stadium Thrusday to celebrate the Mormon pioneers' arrival in Utah where they could practice their religion freely, the Provo School District came closer to being sued for religious discrimination.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission several months ago intervened on behalf of Charles M. Larson, a former teacher at Provo's Independence High School who alleged his job was discontinued by principal Greg Hudnall because he is not a Mormon. Hudnall is also a member ot the Provo City Council.
The EEOC notified Larson this week it has turned over the case to the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has agreed to sue the district on the grounds that Larson's First Amendment right to religious freedom was violated. [an error occurred while processing this directive]