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Tulsa Public Schools investigating teacher for alleged classroom proselytizing

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Tulsa Public Schools
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Memorial High School in Tulsa.

Tulsa Public Schools said Wednesday they have launched an investigation following an allegation that a teacher is proselytizing in the classroom.

An unnamed student at Memorial High School accused biology teacher Amy Cook of converting a section of her classroom into a prayer area, with a wall covered in Bible verses and Christian prayers. The student said after she posted a non-Christian prayer on the wall, Cook pulled her out of class and told her she would "burn in Hell" unless she repented and converted to Christianity.

"We think that, given all of this, this teacher cannot be a teacher," said Chris Line, a staff attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national church-state separation watchdog group.

"This is one of the worst cases, I think, that we've seen," Line said. "Like, a lot of teachers will skirt the line, will lead a prayer, will do some sort of inappropriate action — but to pull a student out of class, to tell them that their religion is wrong and they need to convert to your religion?"

"This is just an egregious example," Line said, adding the group is considering suing TPS should the district not take appropriate action to ensure teachers refrain from forcing their religion onto their students.

"There's a lot of talk about, concerns about indoctrination in schools, typically coming from people like this, when it's clear now the indoctrination that may be going on is this religious indoctrination," Line said.

In a statement, TPS said, "As a public school district, we respect the positions and beliefs of all students and team members regarding religious matters. We also understand there are legal obligations we have under federal law to ensure the separation of church and state. While we cannot disclose confidential personnel information, we can share that we complete a thorough investigation any time there are allegations of inappropriate employee actions - including those relating to speech."

Attempts to reach Cook Thursday were not immediately successful.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.