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Mother facing sack for praying

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: February 13, 2009

  • Jennie Cain, who works at the school, now faces disciplinary action

  • Landscore Primary School

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A PRIMARY school receptionist is facing the sack for seeking church support after her five-year-old daughter was reduced to tears when she was told off for talking about God in class.

Jennie Cain’s daughter Jasmine was scolded by a teacher for discussing Heaven and Hell with a friend, and reportedly came home in a flood of tears.

Mrs Cain, who works at the school, Landscore Primary School in Crediton, now faces disciplinary action after sending a private e-mail to close Christian friends asking them to offer prayers for her daughter and the school.

However, a copy of the e-mail ended up in the hands of the headteacher Gary Read.

Mrs Cain, 38, is now being investigated by governors at Landscore Primary School in Crediton, and could face dismissal. But she still does not know how the headteacher got hold of a copy of the e-mail.

The case has sparked outrage among the Christian community, which fears its members are facing a wave of discrimination in society. Stephen Green, national director of campaign group Christian Voice, said: “It’s discrimination. It seems like open season on Christians. Christians are going to have to wake up to the fact we are in a spiritual war. It’s disgraceful behaviour to treat a five-year-old girl like this. These people will stop at nothing. My initial reaction was, ‘Oh no, not another one’.”

The family says the row started on January 22, when Jasmine told a five-year-old friend: “I believe in God and Jesus and I’m going to Heaven.”

A seven-year-old pupil then asked how a person gets into Hell, to which Jasmine is reported to have said: “By not believing in Jesus”.

When her mother came to pick her up later in the day, Jasmine immediately burst into tears, saying she had been told off by her teacher for talking about God and Heaven and had been warned not to talk about Jesus again. It led to an allegation that a child had been “bullied” over religion.

But the school has pointed out that only the children involved were present during the discussion. Staff say that the child in question was left “frightened and upset” by the exchange. Headteacher Mr Read said Jasmine was told she could talk about Jesus, but could not warn non-believers that they would end up in Hell.

However, Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, which is supporting Mrs Cain, said Jasmine did not raise the subject of Hell herself. He said: “If the school is to be believed, then when Jasmine was asked that question she should have either refused to answer it or denied what Christians have believed for 2,000 years. But she didn’t. She just answered the question. The school now has to deal with the problem of whether it is really going to censor children over their Christian beliefs.”

It comes just a week after nurse Caroline Petrie, from Weston-super-Mare, was told she could go back to work having been suspended for two months for offering to pray for a patient.

Mrs Petrie said: “This mum must be feeling so alone, because that’s how I felt. They make you feel guilty for your beliefs. If she is being threatened with the sack just for sending an e-mail asking people to pray, it is terrible. The whole world will be on her side. Please send her my love and tell her I will pray for her.”

Mrs Cain said she was “shocked” to hear that her daughter had been reprimanded for discussing her beliefs.

The next day headmaster Mr Read invited her into his office to discuss the issue after he received a complaint from a mother who was worried her child was being bullied because of her non-religious stance. Mrs Cain then e-mailed a prayer request from her personal computer at home to 10 trusted friends from her church. “I asked them to please pray for us, please pray for Jasmine, please pray for the school and pray for the church,” she said.

A few days later she was called back into Mr Read’s office again. “I didn’t think at this point I could be more stunned. He had in his hand a copy of my private, personal e-mail and it was highlighted all the way through,” she said.

“He said that he was going to investigate me for professional misconduct because I had been making allegations about the school and staff to members of the public.”

Mrs Cain said she was angry about the way she had been treated: “I felt embarrassed that a private prayer e-mail was read by the school – it felt like someone had gone through my personal prayer diary.”

“I do feel our beliefs haven’t been respected and I don’t feel I have been treated fairly. I don’t know what I am supposed to have done wrong.”

But yesterday, Mr Read defended his actions and said the teacher was right to discipline Jasmine for scaring her fellow classmates. He said: “We have 271 children in our school from a diversity of backgrounds.

“We encourage all our children to think independently and discuss their beliefs with their teachers and classmates when it is appropriate to do so.

“What we do not condone is one child frightening a seven-year-old with the prospect of ‘going to Hell’ if she does not believe in God.

“This is actually what happened. At no time did the teacher tell any child that they could not talk about God. The e-mail (sent by Jennie Cain) contained untrue allegations about the school, including the allegation that the school tried to stop a child talking about God.”

Teaching unions have defended the school. Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the case demonstrated what a minefield religious issues are in schools.

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    Rob Hughes, Walton on Thames  |  February 17 2009, 11:26PM

    If I was Mrs Cain and I was in this situation I tell you RIGHT NOW I would sue the teacher who upset Jasmine and I would sue the headmaster. I say that as a Christian. HOW DARE this headmaster treat a mother and her daughter in this way. I tell you me and Mr Read would have words.

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    roger, cornwall  |  February 16 2009, 6:09AM

    Pathetic , children have always made other children cry. The teacher should have sorted out at the time. But i forgot we live in Chairman Browns PC world and these things dont happen anymore.

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    Helen Barrow, Ashburton  |  February 15 2009, 3:29PM

    It is the teacher who should be reprimanded. Children are at school to learn and the teacher should have taken her on one side and asked if she understood what she had just said and if not to explain to her. Also that this sort of subject is not for everyone. Young children are naturally inquisitive in all that happens around them. I think the mother should really have taken the matter up in the first instance with the headteacher, but it should be no business of the school if she decides to discusses it with others.

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    Charles Henry, Somerset  |  February 15 2009, 11:40AM

    That is what Mothers are for Neil! . To guide, protect and teach their off spring. . They have always done that over the centuries, until we entered this crazy, undisciplined Nanny State that has now been imposed upon us all. . I wonder who pays your wages?

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    NEIL, Paignton  |  February 15 2009, 11:28AM

    This is very poor reporting. The headline should have read 'Mother faces sacking for making untrue allegations about school'. It has nothing to do with her praying. Also I would argue that a five year old's beliefs are actually her mother's. Give her a few more years and let her make her own mind up.

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    johnofthemoor, Near Crediton  |  February 14 2009, 10:56PM

    Problems like this are to be expected as long as schools tollerate any kind of religious behaviour. You are not going to solve this until ALL RELIGION IS BANNED FROM SCHOOLS. I would be interested to know if the girl concerned (Jasmine Cain) and her mother was from the Crediton Community Church - a local church to the area that promotes this kind of evil scaremongering against anybody out there who does not confotm to their exact views. We should follow the french way where religion is BANNED from school in its entirety.

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    John, Dorset  |  February 14 2009, 2:54PM

    To expect a five yr old to know which aspects of a religion are ¿acceptable¿ for discussion seems moronic. Maybe if a Christian child had asked a Moslem child what happens to thieves would the child know not to answer that the thief¿s hands would be cut off? I would imagine that would cause tears of fear ¿ and be acceptable to the teaching ¿profession¿. I understand that children even in this day and age are told to tell the truth. So how could Jasmine not answer the question put to her? The HM has no reason to read private emails not addressed to him. It would seem that after his interview with Mrs Cain, and perceiving the growing storm of controversy, the H.M. decided that discretion was the better part of valour and rescinded his threat of action against her. The Union, school staff esp. the head, and certain commentators should hold their heads in shame. Mrs Cain should also review her email address book ¿ she has a Judas Iscariot to delete.

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    Charles Henry, Somerset  |  February 14 2009, 12:27PM

    Well they've certainly all rallied to defend the school and the Head teacher. . That can't be denied. . . So what we are left with now is the conversation, or the words used by the Head teacher about 'Hell', to a 5 year old child that subsequently made that child cry also. . . . Well one of my daughters was a bridesmaid at age two and a half; but I must admit they did once catch her locking the toilet door then crawling out again underneath at aged 5. . They can all be so 'wicked' if they aren't given enough to occupy them.

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    Colin, Somerset  |  February 14 2009, 11:39AM

    Following taken from the school's web site. '...Singing is thriving at Landscore, and we have just enjoyed a fantastic Carol Concert at Crediton Church. For a taste of the singing, click on the following links to hear Landscore Singers performing three of their favourite Christmas songs. Pie Jesu (2.17MB MP3) Agnus Dei (3.16MB MP3) Peace on Earth (2.49MB MP3)' Those are, I believe, Christian hymns and carols. Certainly sentiments.

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    Teacher, South Devon  |  February 14 2009, 11:38AM

    I agree with you, Jane. For those of us concerned with education, there are two issues here. First, we have a duty of care to children and the teacher had a clear responsibility to intervene to prevent a child being distressed. It is also been made clear that children of all religions and of none would have been treated the same way if they were similarly making their class mates cry. Second, no employer could ignore unfounded accusations that may bring it into disrepute. This will have been in the Contract of Employment signed between employer and worker and will be very clear. We have no means of knowing what the email contained, and this will be investigated by the Governors and Local Authority. If necessary, the issue may be taken further by the employer and the lady concerned. None of this is unusual in the education system, or indeed in any other form of employment - public or private. As you have noted, parents at the school are very satisfied with the way that the Head and the school cares for their children, and have come to the school's defence. Further, a male teacher, who described himself as a Christian, stated publicly that he felt no concerns in discussing his faith at the school and agreed with the way the situation had even handled. There is a political agenda here - as there is in other related stories about imagined persecutions - both from the individuals concerned and from certain sections of the media. It may sell newspapers, but certainly does no service to those teachers and NHS staff who are vilified until the next headline comes along.

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