Student tapes teacher proselytizing in class
Accept Jesus or 'you belong in hell,' he said
By Ken Thorbourne, Jersey Journal, November 15, 2006
A Kearny High School student has accused a history teacher of crossing the line between teaching and preaching -- and he says he's got the tapes to prove it.
Junior Matthew LaClair, 16, said history teacher David Paszkiewicz, who is also a Baptist preacher in town, spent the first week of class lecturing students more about heaven and hell than the colonies and the Constitution.
LaClair said Paszkiewicz told students that if they didn't accept Jesus, "you belong in hell." He also dismissed as unscientific the theories of evolution and the "Big Bang."
LaClair, who described his own religious views as "non-Christian," said he wanted to complain about Paszkiewicz to school administrators, but feared his teacher would deny the charges and that no one would take a student's word against a teacher's.
So, he said, he started taping Paszkiewicz.
"I would never have suspected something like this went on in a public school," LaClair said yesterday. "If I didn't have those CDs, everything would have been dismissed."
The Jersey Journal has listened to the recordings and no one is disputing that it is Paszkiewicz who is speaking.
Paszkiewicz, a teacher at the high school since 1992, did not return phone messages left for him at the high school. Principal Al Somma declined to comment.
Superintendent Robert Mooney, who called Paszkiewicz "a wonderful teacher," said he was aware of the issues raised by LaClair -- and the recordings -- and that "corrective action" would be taken. He refused to elaborate.
As of yesterday, however, Paszkiewicz was still teaching his class, Mooney said.
On Sept. 14 -- the fourth day of class -- Paszkiewicz is on tape saying, "He (God) did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sin on his own body, suffered your pains for you and he's saying, 'Please accept me, believe me.'"
He adds, according to the tapes: "If you reject that, you belong in hell. The outcome is your prerogative. But the way I see it, God himself sent his only son to die for David Paszkiewicz on that cross ... And if you reject that, then it really is to hell with you."
Paszkiewicz didn't limit his religious observations to personal salvation, according to the tapes.
Paszkiewicz shot down the theories of evolution and the "Big Bang" in favor of creationism. He also told his class that dinosaurs were on Noah's ark, LaClair said.
On Oct. 10 -- a month after he first requested a meeting with the principal -- LaClair met with Paszkiewicz, Somma and the head of the social studies department.
At first, Paszkiewicz denied he mixed in religion with his history lesson, and the adults in the room appeared to be buying it, LaClair said. But then he reached into his backpack and produced the CDs.
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