Broward News

Teachers Union on Holy Water Incident: "What's Alleged Did Not Occur"

The Broward Teachers Union expects that two teachers at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach will be "fully exonerated" after school officials finish investigating a religious argument that occurred in a classroom March 11 in which an atheist claimed that two Christian teachers splashed her with holy water.

"We expect that the issue will be resolved very soon," says John Ristow, a spokesman for Broward Teachers Union. "Most likely, people will find that what's being alleged did not occur. But we just have to be patient and wait for the investigation to be finished."

The incident, first reported by Elgin Jones in the South Florida Times, has triggered arguments about the separation of church and state-funded institutions like county schools. You can see that debate raging in the comments field of our Juice post yesterday.

More from the teachers union after the jump.

The teachers union is monitoring the investigation by the Broward County School District to ensure that it's being conducted fairly and thoroughly. All three of the teachers involved are members of the union, says Ristow.

Schandra Rodriguez made a complaint to school administrators in April, alleging that in the previous month, she was accosted by two fellow teachers, Leslie Rainier and Djuna Robinson, who objected to Rodriguez's explaining her atheist beliefs to students. According to Rodriguez's complaint, those two teachers splashed her with holy water. Reportedly, the two teachers were pretending that perfume was holy water, and their attorneys claim Rodriguez was never splashed with it.

The South Florida Times reports that after Rodriguez filed her complaint, the two teachers were escorted off school grounds in front of their students and told not to return until an investigation of the incident was completed.

Although Ristow was careful not to disclose details of what he knows about the investigation, it's evident that the union is siding with Rainier and Robinson. "We fully expect that once the investigations is completed that the two teachers will be fully exonerated," he said. "Unfortunately, there are features of the case that we can't talk about right now."

Ristow would say only that the district's investigative report would "reveal something different" about the incident from what is now known. He added: "It's really unfortunate that in Broward schools, there's very little that prevents people from making allegations. We just have to trust that the truth will come through the investigative process."

Rainier and Robinson spoke last night to Local 10 News.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Thomas Francis