VISD teacher on leave after complaint

A copy of the assignment given to students on Thursday by Terri Langley-Weber, fifth-grade science enrichment teacher at Dudley Elementary School.

A Dudley Elementary School teacher is on administrative leave while an incident involving a student and a Bible is under investigation.

Jessica Dale, whose daughter, Joleigh, is in the fifth-grade class where the incident occurred, said representatives from The Gideons International set up outside the school to give pocket-style New Testaments to students Thursday.

After the students received the Bibles after their physical education class, they went to class with Terri Langley-Weber, fifth-grade science enrichment teacher.

A student left the Bible on his desk, Dale said. When asked to put the book away twice by Langley-Weber, he said nothing.

"When you call it a Bible, I'll put it up," Dale said the student told the teacher.

When Langley-Weber told the student she would call the office, the student called her a "nonbeliever," Dale said.

After the student was sent to the main office, the class watched a video about Charles Darwin and filled out the corresponding worksheet.

Students were not allowed to leave the classroom, Dale said.

The parent plans to file a formal complaint with the district and the Texas Education Agency, she said.

"This is a vindictive, spiteful act," Dale said.

District officials are investigating the exchange between the student and teacher, said Shawna Currie, VISD communications director.

When VISD received the complaint, Langley-Weber was placed on administrative leave so the investigation would not be compromised, she said.

District officials are talking with the teacher, administrators and students to understand what happened and to determine whether the Darwin lesson was a coincidence or part of the curriculum.

"At this time, we don't have an answer," Currie said.

The amount of time Langley-Weber is on leave will depend on how long the investigation takes.

"At this time, we are not saying she did anything wrong," Currie said. "We want to keep the learning environment as consistent as possible and don't want to rush to get it completed."

Langley-Weber said Monday that she would rather talk about the incident after the investigation was completed.

Currie said the Gideons have made Bibles available for fifth-graders and seniors for several years.

"As a district, we don't discriminate against certain groups or religions," Currie said. "We would do the same if other groups requested to distribute information as long as they follow the proper process and get approval prior."

It is suggested that students put them in their book bags and take them home, so they are not a disruption, she said.

The class was coming from another area of the school when they went to Langley-Weber's lesson, she said.

A science enrichment teacher provides additional science instruction in a science lab setting. Students from a variety of grade levels receive instruction once a week.

This is Langley-Weber's first year with VISD, and she has a total of 23 years of teaching experience, Currie said.

"When teachers are going into a lesson, they don't want there to be any certain distractions," she said.

Adaptation and how it connects to Charles Darwin are part of the fifth-grade Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, and part of the standardized testing students take.

The lesson comes from STEMscopes provided by Accelerate Learning, a state-approved program and service the district pays for, Currie said. It acted as a review for material learned the previous week by students to prepare for next week's State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, test.

The video is about Darwin's theory, research before writing his book, "The Origin of Species" and what he learned on the Galapagos Islands about bird beaks, she said.

Langley-Weber omitted two questions from the worksheet that involved humans, Currie said.

"What is survival of the fittest and natural selection?" and "What is the origin of our species?" were the questions the teacher omitted, Currie said.

Currie said the investigation could find the student at fault rather than the teacher.

"We want a healthy positive learning environment and have high expectations for students and teachers where students are able to learn and teachers are able to teach the information they need to," she said. "Disrespect either way will not be tolerated."

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Education reporter

Gabriella Canales graduated from the University of Houston-Victoria with a B.A. in English in 2016. Feel free to contact her with ideas because she is eager to tell stories.

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