ELKHART — In an email to a parent earlier this week, Concord Superintendent Wayne Stubbs addressed complaints about high school teacher Ryan Culp’s apparent decision to show pro-creationism videos in his biology class.
The email correspondence shared with The Elkhart Truth acknowledged that administrators had taken "corrective action" and informed Culp of his requirements under the law, and that the biology teacher had apologized.
According to Corinne Straight-Reed, a Concord High School graduate and parent, the email exchange began Monday, Feb. 24, when she emailed Stubbs expressing her concern about the videos.
“I have a hard time putting into words the frustration and disappointment I feel that one of Concord’s educators would be so grossly misinformed about the law,” she wrote.
After Stubbs sent an email thanking her for her comments, Straight-Reed emailed him again asking for a more specific response to her concerns. On Monday, March 3, Stubbs responded with an explanation of the school’s decisions in handling the matter.
“Concord Community Schools chose to internally address this personnel matter. To protect the privacy rights of its educators, and in some cases its students, Concord Community Schools possesses a long applied practice of not publicly commenting on personnel matters except to the extent required by law. We believe that this practice common in the private sector, to be wise, generally understood and accepted by the public, and appreciated by our employees,” Stubbs wrote.
He also said that no school can make a statement that teachers are infallible educators.
“As we all know, not every lesson taught is perfect. Despite sincere efforts, sometimes educators make misstatements, grade student work incorrectly, teach matters not directly related to prescribed curriculum, or show videos to classes, when lecturing that would be more appropriate,” he wrote.
In this situation, he added, the corporation took “immediate corrective action” to insure present and future compliance with federal law.
“The teacher was briefed on those requirements. The teacher apologized for his misunderstanding and promised future compliance,” Stubbs wrote.
On Tuesday, March 4, an Elkhart Truth reporter emailed Stubbs asking for a response to questions raised in Sunday’s Elkhart Truth editorial that criticized Concord administrators’ silence about the controversy. Stubbs did not respond.
In the series of emails to Stubbs leading up to his response, Straight-Reed raised alarm at several readers’ comments on The Elkhart Truth's website that seemed to interpret Concord’s silence as taking a stance against laws that prohibit creationism teachings in public school science classrooms.
One comment is from “Charles” responding to a comment from “Brian Davis” that criticized the school corporation.
“The majority of parents that I have talked to in the community applaud our administration for not caving to the media and God haters like yourself....I say ‘thanks’ to Mr. Stubbs and Mr. Cunningham for supporting Mr. Culp with their silence. I say if you want to sue us then ‘bring it,'” wrote “Charles."
Dan Cunningham is the principal of Concord High School.
"It is pretty apparent from the comments that the 'teach both' crowd is taking the administration's silence as a victory," Straight-Reed wrote.
In a phone call Friday morning, March 7, she said she finds Stubbs’ response insulting.
“Reading his emails as many times as I did, it just reinforces to me that they didn’t take this seriously from the beginning, and to equate a teacher making a mistake with what he did is asinine,” she said.
Her concern isn’t about religion, she said. It’s about following the law. She also wants the issue to be addressed publicly.
“Ideally, I would like some kind of public statement from the schools and even maybe from Mr. Culp himself. There are so many things that retroactively that should’ve been done. I can’t think of a situation where a teacher being accused of something illegal wasn’t immediately placed on leave so they could look into it,” she said.
She said she also doesn’t accept Stubbs’ explanation of Concord not commenting on personnel matters, because Stubbs spoke publicly about an incident earlier this year involving a school groundskeeper, also an Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department sworn reserve officer, who brought his gun onto school property and was ultimately fired over it.
As a Concord High School graduate, Straight-Reed said she’s proud of her education and the school she went to.
“I’m just not willing to be embarrassed or have the quality or validity of my education and my children’s education to be questioned, and that’s what they’re allowing to happen,” she said.
On Friday, Stubbs confirmed that an email exchange took place between him and Straight-Reed.
According to information from Concord Community Schools, Culp is still employed as a teacher.