How to gently address anti-religion teachings in school

I learned recently that my kids in elementary school are hearing anti-religion teachings in their public school from the teachers (I'm still trying to find out if it is their main teacher, subject matter teacher or after school teacher).  It is public school so more than happy for religion to be not-addressed or described generally from historical perspective, but they come home saying the teacher said "God is a made up being some people believe in to feel better," or "as you go further in school you will see that all of the Bible stories have explanations in science" or "God is kind of like a fairy but for adults."  It caused some in depth conversations at home and I addressed it with the kids to the extent I could but I was very unhappy to hear it.  We are not even that religious -- we believe in evolution and science, are professionals and highly educated, and are not blindly following religion (so public school seemed ok, and I don't want to move them to religious private school even though we can afford it), but we do believe in God and observe some of the religious customs and teachings.  I don't expect the school or the teachers to follow or believe in any of it, but I do expect that they don't call our family's and many other religious' families' believes "a made up story" and say God is just something some people believe in like you believe in the tooth fairy to my elementary school children.  I'm going to try to find out which teacher is saying this, but then what.  It just seems like such a sensitive topic to bring up with the teacher, or maybe I should go straight to principal to avoid a direct conflict -- I know religion is not popular in the bay area and many folks don't believe which is fine and I would not care if this came from a friend but I don't think a teacher has a right to go there and want to make sure he/she is more careful in future as I know we are not the only religious family in the school even though very few if any know that we are religious so they might not be as careful around my kids as they are around others. 

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I put this in the same category as when the teacher tells the kids things I consider to be age-inappropriate. For example, last week, my daughter's fourth grade teacher felt the need to tell the class both about Kobe Bryant's helicopter crash, and the coronavirus pandemic. I was like, really? What was the point of that, other than freaking the kids out? So it led to conversations at home, which ultimately is my job as the parent - to help my children navigate the information they receive at school and mesh it with our family's values. I am not bringing it up to the teacher - she's gonna say what she's gonna say; her judgement of what's appropriate is obviously not mine, but I don't want her to feel like I'm censoring her.

I would first verify who is saying this and in what context, which it sounds like you're doing. Kids can get things pretty mixed up in the re-telling. If it did come from a teacher during instructional time, I would definitely address it directly with the teacher. It's always better to speak directly (not email) with someone rather than going around them. If the teacher acknowledges the gist of what your kids said and is not willing to work with you, then go to the principal. I would be really displeased to hear proselytizing of any kind - including this kind - at my child's school. 

Yikes. That's so disrespectful, and such an oversimplified view of religion and spirituality. I don't have school-aged kids yet so I'm not sure whether approaching the teacher or the principal is better, but I do think you should speak out. Maybe just a simple "Tolerance of philosophical differences is an important social skill in a pluralistic society, and it's important to us that the teachers model that"?

I agree that any pro- or anti-religion messages are inappropriate in public schools. Assuming you heard this by direct report from your daughter, I think you should write a letter to letter to the principal stating the comments that your daughter reported being made by a teacher, and pointing out that such comments are inappropriate in a public school setting. My guess is that your principal would want to know about this issue and will address it with his/her staff, especially given the value placed on inclusivity in the Bay Area. If you heard about this indirectly, and your daughter cannot corroborate, I would call that too little evidence to write a letter.

Trying to think about how such comments could be made in an elementary school classroom: I can't think of a reason a teacher would bring up the topic of God themselves, but I can imagine a student giving God as an explanation for something, and the teacher not being ready with a perfectly neutral, appropriate response (teachers are people too!). Maybe this particular teacher could prepare a bit better for this situation: If a student brings up God as an explanation for something, maybe something like "There are lots of different levels of explanation, and in science we look a different level of explanation than God" and steer away after that. 

What you are describing is religious teaching in a public school.  The teacher is advocating atheism over other forms of religious expression. Evangelical atheism has no more place in public school curriculum that evangelical Christianity.    I recommend bringing to the attention of the principal who can remind the teachers that advocating any form or religion over others if forbidden in the school.  With your children it is a good opportunity to discuss the variety of religious ideas and expression they will find around them in the world.  

As an atheist, I can completely relate to your post. A teacher at our public elementary school told the kids that God created the alphabet and stuff like that. Teachers and schools should be neutral on religion - they shouldn't push it or condemn it. I would talk to your principal. Regardless of his or her personal beliefs, your kids' teacher should not be providing that kind of commentary on religion in a public school setting.

Sounds like you might be a little defensive?  Just explain your beliefs to them.  Not everyone will share those beliefs, nor will everyone necessarily agree with everything the teacher is saying.  Why is this a problem?

Teachers are supposed to keep their opinions about religion out of the classroom. Plain and simple. He/She/They were being inappropriate and crossed a line. It’s not in their job description to sway your child’s beliefs or lack of beliefs one way or the other unless your kid attends parochial school. 

Speaking as a contented third-generation atheist, if a teacher is indeed saying such things, I think that s/he is out of line and that you should have a polite chat with this person. (However, this sort of thing is also a good conversation starter at home.) For my part, I was irritated--as were some Jewish parents--when a 5th-grade classroom volunteer brought our kids "inspirational" t-shirts that mentioned, among other things, the importance of believing in Jesus, but I was especially shocked the teacher had allowed this in the first place; volunteers weren't that hard to recruit at our neighborhood public school. Religion, including disrespect for others' faith, has no place in public schools, apart from comparative-religion studies in the higher grades.

Don't you think it depends on what was being taught or disused at the time?  While you may not agree with what the teacher is teaching what give you the "right" to deprive other students from learning about this point of view?  You chose to use very strong words, " .... I don't think a teacher has a right to go there and want to make sure he/she is more careful in future..." .

This is a public school where students are expulsed to different beliefs and teachers are paid to teach the difference between what people believe and what we know is scientific fact.  You should congratulate this teacher for exposing your child to science side of religion so you and your family can have an engaging conversation about religion in the privacy of your home.  And isn't that exactly what happened?  Sounds to me like your child has a wonderful teacher.

You could track down the teacher and then what?  Tell them off for presenting scientific side of religion?  Or do you want to put them on report with principal or school board and get them fired? 

Teachers are so underpaid and underappreciated.  If you don’t want your child exposed to scientific beliefs, you have the right to place your child in a religious school.  What you don’t have the right to do is “make sure” this teacher is more careful in the future.  That is a threat.  Take a chill pill and happy this teacher is allowing you to have intimate discussions with your child. You might what to ask yourself if you are trying to control what your child should believe and think.  Let’s hope not and allow our schools to teacher your child how to think and reason.  People believe in religion for different reasons.  Let your child figure it out.   

Hi, I think you should bring it up with the main teacher and acknowledge you don't know where/what teacher it is coming from and what you heard from your kid and why it concerns you. This will give you more information. I recommend you approach it with an open mind, considering you got the information second hand through your kid. There's always a chance your kid heard wrong, or it was a one time thing the teacher regrets. Or maybe this is what the teacher believes is appropriate to teach, and then you can go talk with the principal and let him/her know your concerns. It will be best if you can figure out from your kid which teacher, but it can be hard to get clear info from a young kid (another reason to approach with open mind). Good luck