Temecula First Grade Teacher, Principal Release Statements: 'Students Free To Share Ideas'

The Jan. 21 statements follow allegations by Advocates for Faith & Freedom that assert first-grader Brynn Williams was denied her right to free expression in the classroom at Helen Hunt Jackson Elementary School.

During the Public Comment portion of Temecula Valley Unified School District’s Governing Board meeting on Tuesday, January 21, Jackson Elementary School Principal, Ami Paradise, and first grade teacher, Tammy Williams, addressed the board of trustees in response to claims made by non-profit group, Advocates for Faith & Freedom. The statements followed a day in which members of OccupyTeaParty.net and others rallied at the school in support of the claims by Advocates for Faith & Freedom.

The allegations by Advocates for Faith & Freedom assert that first-grader Brynn Williams was denied the right to free expression in the classroom on Dec. 18, 2013 when she gave a presentation about the Star of Bethlehem and what it meant to her family at Christmas-time.

TVUSD has withheld comment until district officials could finish an investigation into the matter. Today, the district released the Jan. 21 full statements of both Brynn's teacher and principal. The statements, verbatim, are as follows:

Statement from Tammy Williams, first grade teacher at Jackson Elementary School

Hello Members of the Board,

My name is Tammy Williams and I am a first grade teacher at Helen Hunt Jackson Elementary School. Last Tuesday, my reputation was questioned by the family of a student in my class and the Advocates for Faith and Freedom with accusations that I was hostile and bullied a child in my class over her religious beliefs. I wanted to make a statement here tonight to respond to these untrue

On Thursday, December 19th my class was getting our classroom ready for our holiday party that was to occur the next morning. We took longer than normal putting things away to ensure that the desks were clean and book boxes were put away so that tables could be used for our centers. This was normally something we did on Fridays. Because of this, we were running behind and I still had six students who needed to do their sharing. I had a very limited amount of time and needed to make sure all students had time to share. Now remember, this is sharing. They were not oral reports. Students were asked to share a family tradition. It could be anything, not just a Christmas tradition. During sharing, I work with students on looking at the audience and using clear voices. We also work on listening skills and asking questions.

This student was not the last student to present as had been reported. I still had a couple of students after her (which was the Student of the Day and the Student of the Week). When she started her share, she pulled out her golden star that I held for her as she pulled out her prepared speech
written by one of her parents. This was unusual because rarely does a student have a prepared statement to read. As I held the star, the student began to read her statement. I helped her with a few words that she was having trouble with. I decided that I would have the student stop after sharing about Mary and Joseph. I felt that it would take too long and I still needed her to take her question and I had a few clarifying questions for her as well. At this point, I simply said the following, “Ok, stop here and you get one question.” She simply put her paper down and picked a student who asked her a question. I also asked her, “Who puts the star on the tree? Do you take turns?” I even suggested that her dad could lift her up to let her put it on the tree. After that, she put her star away and sat with the class while we finished with the other students. I monitor all students this way. She at no time complained or acted sad. She was as happy as always.

I want to be very clear about the following.

At no time did I ever tell the student that she could not read the bottom section because it was a Bible verse nor did she ask if she could finish. I never told her to “Stop right there!” or “Go take your seat!” or reprimand her in front of the class for sharing from the Bible. It just did not happen. This subject matter was never discussed. I decided to stop her at that point so the other students would get their share in before the bell rang. My students have always been free to share their ideas.

What saddens me is that this story was twisted into lies and brought to the media. I have never sat down and discussed this directly with the family or the student. I am instead being used to push an agenda for the Advocates for Faith and Freedom.

In closing, I want to express how blessed I am to work at a school that has stood behind me 100% and have had a tremendous amount of support from current parents and past parents who knew that the accusations were false just by hearing the story. They know that I would never behave in the manner in which I have been accused.

Statement from Jackson Elementary School Principal, Ami Paradise:

Honorable Board Members,

My name is Ami Paradise and I am the principal of Helen Hunt Jackson Elementary School.  I stand before you tonight as an educator, wife, mother of two great little boys, and I’d like to state that I am a Christian. 

Over the past week, I have received countless phone calls and 126 mean-spirited emails from across the country as a result of the claims that the Advocates of Faith and Freedom have made against one of my teachers, the school district, and myself.  These claims are simply not true. 

When I met with the parent on December 20, 2013, she shared that she and her husband were upset that their child was unable to finish her presentation and that they thought it was because it contained a Bible verse. There were absolutely no claims of humiliation or bullying by the classroom teacher. No claims that their child was told to take her seat or that she could not talk about the Bible. These claims have been made in the midst of a media spotlight in order to sensationalize a story. The truth is, there were other students left to present before the end of the day, and there was just not enough time.  

Furthermore, when I met with this parent I never told her that her child may not share her beliefs aloud to other students nor did I try to stifle her freedom of speech in any way. I told the parent that I would follow up with the classroom teacher, and I sent her the results of my findings along with the copy of the board policy regarding religion on December 24th, 2013. I have not heard from her since. Not once to tell me that she did not agree with my findings, not once to ask for a classroom change for her child. In fact, with the exception of today, this student has attended school every day since this incident, in the same exact classroom where this alleged incident occurred.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not address the classroom teacher in the center of this controversy-- Mrs. Tammy Williams.  Mrs. Tammy Williams is one of the finest educators I have ever worked with. She is an AMAZING first grade teacher, taught my own son last year, and I would not hesitate to put my younger son in her class. She does not deserve the harassment or bullying that she has received, the questioning of her professional skills or judgment, or the claims that she harmed this child in any way.  

I stand behind Mrs. Tammy Williams 110% and find it extremely unfortunate that the Advocates for Faith and Freedom have irrevocably caused damage to her good name. The days will pass and this story will not be at the top of the news for long, but the damage that it has done to the good names of Helen Hunt Jackson Elementary School, Mrs. Tammy Williams, and myself will be difficult to

Thank you.

John L. Hart January 31, 2014 at 07:05 PM
What saddens me is the poor grammar used by someone shaping young minds.
Terri Anderson February 01, 2014 at 05:36 AM
ChristieD, your January 31, 2014 at 11:46 AM comment says, "Benjamin Franklin: http://benjaminfranklinbio.com/benjamin-franklin-on-religion/145/ Check it out Terri: you might want to stop quoting him." ... Sorry ChristieD, you quote scripture that you don't know the meaning of and now you are quoting from an article in which it is supposed to deter me from quoting Benjamin Franklin. The problem is that the article doesn't make him look bad at all. I am very much aware of Benjamin Franklin's early concern with religion. Like many young people, it takes some of them awhile to learn what they truly believe. Here is an excerpt from your link: In the earliest formative years of the United States, Franklin voiced his concern about the stability of any nation without a virtuous population. Although he would never pick one religion as superior to others, he did understand the usefulness of religion in building a stronger society and thus, a stronger nation. Only a month before his death, Franklin replied to a question on his religion from the President of Yale University by stating that he viewed Christ's "system of morals and His religion" as the best the world had ever seen, but had "some doubts as to his divinity." The dying Franklin joked that further study was not necessary because he would "expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble." - (See more at: http://benjaminfranklinbio.com/benjamin-franklin-on-religion/145/#sthash.TLyQfPRw.dpuf) - Having "some doubt" isn't a problem for me, there isn't much in life where we don't have some doubt. Nothing I read will make me stop quoting him.
Terri Anderson February 01, 2014 at 05:38 AM
Carole Raybourn regarding your January 31, 2014 at 02:59 PM post: "Hi, Terri, "Bible" is capitalized." I know, my bad. Thanks for the reminder!!!
Terri Anderson February 01, 2014 at 06:05 AM
Rev-Henry Bates, regarding your January 31, 2014 at 02:31 PM post: You have obviously missed the reason why I am concerned over what happened. It is not because a little girl didn't get to finish her story about a star. Intentional or not, that description is a gross downplay. I am not impressed with your interpretation about the war on Christians and disagree with you completely. The root of the war on Christianity is Satan's hate for Christians. It takes on many shapes, forms and forums. It is a spiritual war, not "by Christians who have never studied the history of the Bible or the real life of Jesus but want everyone to accept the "fairy tales"" as you allege. I knew a Reverend who had no church and no congregation. He abused his neighbors so badly that he was prosecuted by the D.A. and ran out of the county, so I do agree that many Christians - as well as Reverends - don't follow Jesus' teachings. I recently went to a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., it was held in a church where Jesus or God's name was not mentioned anywhere in the invocation, benediction or talks and only in one song that the choir sang. It was a multi-cultural event, they were obviously placating the audience and didn't want to offend anyone by mentioning Jesus or God. Martin Luther was a devout Christian and I am sure he would not have liked this tribute.
Terri Anderson February 01, 2014 at 06:11 AM
John Menuis, your January 31, 2014 at 12:21 PM post: "I respect anyone's right to believe whatever they choose. However, I do not respect the Christian religion as I find it a ridiculous myth." I agree with you, they are free to choose and you are free to have your opinion about it being a myth. For me, when I follow Jesus' teachings and apply them to my life, I can see that they are true. He has led me in ways that I, personally, can say there is a God. I have seen it all of my life and have countless examples of His love and mercy for everyone, even non-believers. You may not believe in Him, but he loves you just the same.
Terri Anderson February 01, 2014 at 06:17 AM
Erbie E Gentry, your January 31, 2014 at 11:59 AM post says: "In these circumstances the teacher needs a public apology. the same way her public accusation was made. Or someone needs a lawyer for a defamation case going to be put on them." First, she will not get a public apology, she was the one who was wrong. Second, you obviously have no idea about what constitutes defamation. There isn't an attorney in California who would take a case like that because it is not defamation. People have a right to their opinions and can freely express them. I believe the teacher is lying to cover her behind. That is an opinion based on what I have read. Others have a different opinion about the parents, that is their right.
Terri Anderson February 01, 2014 at 06:19 AM
southernbelle, regarding your January 31, 2014 at 12:01 PM post: I'm far from done and would love to see the crazy side of redneck, lol.
Terri Anderson February 01, 2014 at 06:21 AM
ChristieD, your January 31, 2014 at 11:46 AM post: "@ Terri: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/education/13texas.html?_r=0 Liberals are trying to rewrite history? Funny." ... Yep, and I wouldn't believe anything the NY Times writes.
Terri Anderson February 01, 2014 at 06:23 AM
The Peacekeeper, your January 31, 2014 at 12:09 PM post: "Erbie.....a lawyer, really???? For what, so the client can get screwed over for thousands of dollars by an unethical pos lawyer who promised the world but in reality gets nothing?? Trust me, the court wouldn't even put that on calender." You are correct, that would be the only kind of a lawyer that would take a case like that.
Terri Anderson February 01, 2014 at 06:26 AM
ChristieD, your January 31, 2014 at 11:37 AM post: "@ Terri......back to beating a dead horse again? LOL...... As for all your references given above.....can't you find some non-religious-right sources? As for knowing what's going on with global warming because "you know one of the men that is doing it" and the "liberals are the ones doing it." That actually made me laugh out loud!" ... I'm not surprised, you don't seem like you are a very deep thinker. The non-religious-right sources lie too much, I don't trust them.
Terri Anderson February 01, 2014 at 06:36 AM
The Peacekeeper, your January 31, 2014 at 10:22 AM post: "Terri, go to bed already. Your old man just tolerates you so he doesn't have to pay you. 79% divorce rate in America. 96% of married couples report complete unhappiness within the dream idea. Trust me, Terri......he's lying to you. You saucy biiyaatch!! Those were your words....although my spelling may be wrong ;-)" I like the way you seem to know so much about my marriage. If he is lying to me, that's ok, men lie. He just bought me a new car so I will forgive him. BTW, I am one of the 4% who is very satisfied with my marriage and my husband (even if he lies to me). I will ask him what percent he is in, the 96% or the 4% and get back witch ya' tomorrow night. Gee, I hope he won't lie to me about it, lol.
ChrisG February 01, 2014 at 09:14 AM
For me this is a freedom of speech issue. Only because it seems Miss Williams speech was cut short at the point of quoting a biblical verse. I worry about the example we are teaching our children in our public schools when these types of things happen. Inch by inch we lose our freedoms if we allow things like this to happen. Our children are our future. I want them smart and brave and protected by our Constitution. I'm not convinced there is a war on Christianity, at least in our country, but I do believe there is a war on our Constitution. We may not like it all the time but freedom of speech does not mean freedom from speech. Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion. It means freedom to worship or not worship in the way of your choice without government interference, it means no state religion. As reported, this was not a separation of church and state issue but certainly a freedom of speech issue.
southernbelle February 01, 2014 at 12:56 PM
blah--my empty threat didn't work. --________--
ChristieD February 01, 2014 at 02:05 PM
@ Terri: You said: "Sorry ChristieD, you quote scripture that you don't know the meaning of and now you are quoting from an article in which it is supposed to deter me from quoting Benjamin Franklin. The problem is that the article doesn't make him look bad at all." You believe only what your preachers tell you about scripture Kathy. The Bible was not written in a vacuum, and you have no "Godly right" to judge how God speaks to people with is; especially when you cherry pick and choose which ones to defend your position while ignoring others (we have been thru that before!) As for making B. Franklin look bad? Whenever did I say the article made him look bad? Peaceful religion of COURSE makes any society better and I'm all for them. "Peaceful" however, does not mean inflicting your religion on other people (or other people's children). Nor does it mean creating divisiveness, hatred, or intolerance in a society; which unfortunately is what is happening in this circumstance.
ChristieD February 01, 2014 at 02:10 PM
@ Terri: your statement: "I'm not surprised, you don't seem like you are a very deep thinker. The non-religious-right sources lie too much, I don't trust them." So apparently you only trust "religious sources?" You might want to read up on the history of Christianity to see hat the church historically lied again and again and again to believers, incited them to violence, persecution, murder and mayhem. I'd be hesitant to believe your sources. Especially when they include NOM, Tony Perkins, etc. They are not spreading "Christ-like" teachings in any possible. way.
ChristieD February 01, 2014 at 02:21 PM
"American Family Association presence in Uganda, a country besieged by American evangelicals who have used religion to turn the small African nation into a raging pool of hate and homophobia." They are the impetus for their country’s “Kill The Gays” bill, and even for the 2011 death of Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato. ttp://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/anti-gay-hate-group-creates-christian-coffee-company-to-underwrite-their-ministry/politics/2013/07/22/71528#.Uu1II5WPKYM. And you trust these organizations? Christian evangelicals assisted in the drafting of Ugandas "Kill the Gays" bill.....and you trust them? Sometimes sheep follow the wrong voice, and these are not the voice of a loving God.
Sara Jones February 01, 2014 at 06:37 PM
Does anyone really believe the teacher stopped a 45 second presentation because of lack of time? I've got a bridge to seel you. I'm actually shocked that a teacher and a principal have never thought about the child in this case. Yes, they are very good at making speeches and disclaiming their actions but really? As a former teacher, I would expect the teacher to care about the child's feelings more than her own personal safety. Great teacher? LOL Not in my book. If the child went home and was upset, why not comfort the kid? Teacher, you're the adult. The mom was being a mother. So for you who hate protective moms, well, I would expect nothing less from the mother. I'm shocked at the speeches of the principal and teacher. No wonder kids are dropping out.
Terri Anderson February 02, 2014 at 04:08 AM
Bravo Sara Jones, well said. It's nice to hear from someone with some common sense.
Terri Anderson February 02, 2014 at 04:19 AM
ChristieD, regarding your February 01, 2014 at 02:21 PM post: This is the type of garbage I would expect from far left-wing propaganda machines, this is why I don't pay attention to them. I know Christians who go to Uganda and help the people, they are loved. I would suggest that you watch the movie "Machine Gun Preacher", it is based on a true story and it will let you know the real situation in Uganda. I do not watch R-rated movies but made an exception with this one because the story line is so good. You really will fall for any nut-job news outlet that advances your liberal agenda, won't you? You know NOTHING about what is happening in Uganda and you have absolutely no credibility with me what-so-ever. Know this, I don't give a rip about your gay and lesbian lifestyle fetish.
Terri Anderson February 02, 2014 at 04:22 AM
ChristieD, regarding your February 01, 2014 at 02:10 PM post: This post proves you aren't a deep thinker and don't know what you are talking about. Yawn, you are boring me.
Terri Anderson February 02, 2014 at 04:30 AM
ChristieD, regarding your February 01, 2014 at 02:05 PM post: Now you are backtracking with your nonsensical rhetoric. Brynn was "peacefully" sharing her presentation and the "divisiveness, hatred, or intolerance in a society" was created by the teacher when she abruptly cut Brynn's presentation short and perpetuated by the principal when she stuck up for the teacher.
The Peacekeeper February 02, 2014 at 04:30 AM
Go Hawks!!!
Terri Anderson February 02, 2014 at 04:31 AM
southernbelle February 01, 2014 at 12:56 PM "blah--my empty threat didn't work. --________--" Nope. This isn't the crazy redneck stuff you were talking about was it?
Terri Anderson February 02, 2014 at 04:39 AM
ChrisG, regarding your February 01, 2014 at 09:14 AM post: I agree with everything, except I can see the war on Christianity quite clearly. To me, this incident supports it. I bet, had Brynn done her presentation on a cute little statue of a gay couple "holiday tree" ornament, the teacher would have allowed her to continue and given her a standing ovation when she finished. But because it involved Mary, Joseph, the Star of David and a Bible verse, it was obviously taboo.
Terri Anderson February 02, 2014 at 04:50 AM
Peacekeeper, my hubby says he is in the 4% group too. I guess we just have one of those marriages that works well for us. He lies to me, I believe him, he buys me a new car...what's not to be happy about? Seriously though, he is a GREAT guy, we have been married 26 years, we get along great. He is my superhero and I am his trusty sidekick :)
Terri Anderson February 02, 2014 at 05:00 AM
ChristieD, regarding your February 01, 2014 at 02:05 PM post: Kathy?
ChristieD February 02, 2014 at 10:36 PM
Terri; you are just sharing your version of "love of Christ" aren't you? You have tated that you don't trust "non-religious" sources, which shows that you have truly closed your mind to reality and have bought in to the religious lie that you are living. I have not resorted to name calling or personal attacks like some on this blog have.....and you have succumbed. All I can say is, WWJS about your comments above. Christ's life on earth would so reflect the "left wing liberal agenda." You are continuing down the wrong path.
ChristieD February 02, 2014 at 10:39 PM
And to conclude the relevant discussion; none of us were in the classroom. We can only guess what the true circumstances and statements made were. Perhaps the "truth" will come out; maybe it never will. Either way, it's been a fun and lively discussion, apart from the name calling. It probably would've been best left at differing political stances (e.g. right wing left wing). Peace out.
James Butler February 04, 2014 at 12:07 AM
whereis the statement from the plaintiff? Not relevant, apparently.
William Edwin Rauh February 04, 2014 at 07:13 AM
It is sad when organizations such as this try to distort what has really happened in order to make a name for themselves. Congratulations to the Principal and the teacher for keeping professional and level heads throughout this ordeal. Shame onthis 'so-called' religious organization for building the situation toally out of proportion. This is one example of what is tearing religion apart in this country.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »