NC: Suspended Teacher Often Talked About Christianity


NC: ENLOE STUDENTS QUESTIONED

Students at Enloe High School said they have long heard the kinds of Christian overtures that got social studies teacher Robert Escamilla suspended this week.

An 18-year Wake County schools veteran, Escamilla was suspended with pay while the school system investigates his invitation of a Christian evangelist to several of his classrooms Feb. 15. Kamil Solomon, a Raleigh-based evangelist, denounced Islam and handed out pamphlets titled, "Jesus not Muhammad, Part I," and "Do Not Marry a Muslim Man, Part I."

Enloe students said attorneys for the school system questioned them Wednesday and Thursday. Schools spokesman Michael Evans said those inquiries would conclude today. He could not say when the investigation would be completed.

"They asked me what my reaction was, what annoyed me the most, and what I think they should do about it," said Saira Butt, an Enloe freshman. "I told the lawyer [Escamilla] shouldn't be fired, but he should be prevented" from repeating the incident.

Saira's father, Tariq, a Muslim, was outraged by the visiting evangelist and contacted several Muslim advocacy groups.

Social studies supervisor Marian Johnson, who heard Solomon speak Feb. 15, sent an e-mail message to teachers defending the visit as an educational experience in which students learned how to evaluate "primary sources."

Parents said they appreciated the attention the school was giving to the incident and awaited the investigation's results.

Reached on his cell phone, Escamilla said he was asked to not talk to reporters until the investigation was complete.

Former Enloe students say Escamilla has never made a secret of his Christian beliefs.

"He's always been a very controversial guy at Enloe," said Jaime Zea, 18, who graduated last year and said he bears no grudge against Escamilla. "He's an opinionated teacher, and he's always pushing the envelope."

Others, however, say he might have crossed a constitutional boundary on some occasions.

Wei-Chun Wang, who took an Advanced Placement European history class with Escamilla in 2004, said the teacher brought in a creationist without offering a guest visitor on evolution.

Students who took the same class in 2000 said Escamilla showed the movie version of "Left Behind," a popular apocalyptic Christian fiction series that tells of the Rapture in which Christ lifts his followers to heaven before Jesus' eventual return.

Andrea Schrag said that after she graduated in 2000, Escamilla mailed her a copy of "The Case for Christ," a book by popular Christian evangelist Lee Strobel.

"He knew I was Jewish," said Schrag, now a lawyer in Raleigh. "I was outspoken about that."

Students say Escamilla never coerced them or punished them for not accepting his beliefs. But he also spoke his mind.

Susan Haughney, a 1999 graduate of Enloe, said Escamilla reprimanded her after class for speaking to a male student, telling her she was not "acting like a Christian woman." Haughney is an agnostic.

"I told my parents about it, but I never said anything at school," said Haughney, who lives in Raleigh. "I didn't think I'd be heard."

 


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