Religious Discrimination In The Work Place
I'm sure we would all like to believe that in this day and age we've evolved into more intelligent people than our ancestors. We tell ourselves that the horrible crimes of the past couldn't possibly be something that we would support or repeat in today's society. But is that really true? Have we grown as a collective to the enlightened point we claim? Sadly, the answer is no.
No, we haven't, at least not as a whole. There are still many groups and individuals who let fear of the unknown or fear of the different rule their judgement. There is still prejudice, hate, discrimination, and segregated thinking running rampant among us still today. The battle continues to bring truth, knowledge, and understanding to the masses in a way that allows everyone to live a life free from the fear of being attacked or singled out for being "different".
So what happens when there is discrimination or prejudice occurring in your workplace, against you! Sure there are laws, rules, and policies in place to prevent these things; but lets face it, it still happens. It happens more often than it should, more often than it is reported, and more often than is acceptable. No amount of discrimination or prejudice is acceptable.
Now when compared to some, my story is a very mild case of the all too common and always unacceptable behavior of those who just can't seem to accept those who are different from themselves. It goes back a few years to when I was a very happy, very good, preschool teacher. Now I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I had hundreds of families over the course of my teaching career tell both myself and my supervisors what a fantastic job I did. I loved my job, I loved the kids, I loved the families (well, most of them), and they loved me.
One fine day while we were all busy planning what we would do to decorate our rooms for St. Patrick's Day trouble started to brew in my otherwise blissful world. I was called into the office to speak with the director of the preschool/daycare on a very serious matter.
What could it be? I couldn't think of a possible thing that had gone wrong in my room lately. Everything was going great, or so I thought. With my heart and mind racing, I entered the inner office and was asked to close the door behind me. (Talk about tense!)
Accusations & Misunderstandings:
After I sat down the director took a moment before speaking to me in a very serious tone. "One of the other teachers here has told me that you said you were planning on bringing your witch's cauldron into your room. Is this true?"
Are you serious?! Is THAT what this was about?
"Yes," I couldn't help but laugh. "We're planning a learning center for the kids to count gold coins. My assistant and I talked about the idea and I said that I have a plastic witch's cauldron from last Halloween that would make a perfect pot for the pot of gold."
The director literally leaned back in her chair and breathed a sigh of relief. "Well that sounds like a wonderful idea." She tried to compose herself.
Now I knew perfectly well what "other teacher" had said something. She was a highly religious woman who just the week before had found out that I was Wiccan. Of course, she had no idea what it meant or what my beliefs were, nor did she care to find out. To further upset the apple cart, I had mentioned to the director a few weeks prior that as we were a "non-religious" preschool/daycare, I felt it was inappropriate to play religious music. This upset the "other teacher" immensely, since it was her classroom doing the majority of the offending on that one. The director had agreed with me and sent a note to all the rooms to eliminate the use of religious music. If we play it for one, we must play it for them all.
Fear behind Actions:
After having a good laugh in the office over the misunderstanding I asked the director if the other teacher was seriously afraid that I was going to try to bring my religion into my classroom. The director admitted, yes, the other teacher did seem very uneasy and concerned that I would "pollute" the children's minds with my beliefs. (Other teacher's words, not the director's)
I assured the director that, as always, I would keep my beliefs to myself as I had been asking be done by everyone else. I reminded her that one of the reasons I enjoyed working for the company so much was because it was free from religious teachings, which meant that no one would be focusing on the matter from any perspective or view point.
That wasn't the end to the attacks, slander, or mistreatment by that "other teacher". While the supervising staff realized and recognized what was happening, there was little they could actually do to help. Needless to say her "concerns" when related to me, weren't taken as seriously by the office staff after that.
If you can't attack one, attack a weaker one:
This teacher also happened to be the one in charge of the room my daughter was in at the time; my oldest child, only 2 1/2 way back then. This woman outright picked on my child. She denied her treats at snack time which she gave to everyone BUT my daughter. She scolded her, talked down to her, and was absolutely intolerable as a teacher.
I was forced, as a parent, to take my concerns to the director over her actions toward my daughter. I sited rules and policies that she was in direct violation of. Something had to be done. There was no way I was going to let that woman damage my child because of her beef with me.
She was very sternly talked with, although that didn't stop her from trying to find new ways to exclude my child from special activities or being treated fairly. In the end the director saw no choice but to remove my daughter from that room and put her in mine. Typically you aren't supposed to have your own child in your room with you, but mine was the next age level up and my daughter was certainly advanced enough to fit in.
There wasn't a way, at the time, to switch me to another room and bring in another teacher for the age-group either, so the rules got bent for the protection of my child. It wasn't the first time I had her in my room under the same issue of not having another place to put either myself or her. The directors knew that I was professional enough to handle it, which I did.
It took a few years of similar behavior with other children before that "other teacher" was finally asked to leave the program. Far too long in my mind, however, at least eventually something was done.