Investigation Launched into Ongoing Presence of Three Youth Pastors at Woodward Middle School

Posted by on October 8, 2013 at 6:15 pm


Peter Bang-Knudsen, Bainbridge Island School District Assistant Superintendent, has launched an investigation into the presence of three local youth pastors—one from Island Church, one from New Life, and one from Cross Sound—in an ongoing capacity over three years as volunteers at Woodward Middle School, specifically in the lunch room and at registration.

Parents became concerned about the pastors, who are not parents of children at the school, being allowed regular access to students on the campus of a public school.

Mike Florian, the Principal of Woodward Middle School, told me, “Anybody can volunteer at a public school.” He added that there are guidelines for volunteers and different levels of background checks depending on the capacity in which they are serving the school. He said, “On a regular basis we ask for a background check.” I asked if the pastors had been subjected to a check, and he said only two had, at the basic level. None of them had been subjected to the Washington State Patrol fingerprinting check because, he said, they were never going to be alone with the kids, and two certified staff members were always present when they were around. He did not explain why all three volunteers were not checked.

Most volunteers at the school are recruited through the PTO, which tracks their schedules. Florian told me that volunteers who are parents don’t go through any kind of background check, commenting that “it appears there is a group of parents who think volunteers should only be parents,” which, he said, rules out a good percentage of the volunteers they have. I asked what percentage, and he didn’t know.

The three pastors were originally vetted through his office, as opposed to the PTO, so they were not on any schedules. They are no longer volunteering at the school, per Florian’s request.

Florian said there was never any proselytizing or recruiting, and the volunteers were just there to watch over the kids and make sure rules were followed.

However, three parents I spoke with, all of whom chose to remain anonymous, each said, in separate conversations, that their kids described the presence of the pastors as “creepy.” One child said that one of the men had asked for her name and asked for names of other kids. But no one has yet offered any concrete evidence that the pastors spoke to the kids about religion or their particular churches.

One of the parents said that Florian had reported to her that he felt the three men were “positive male role models” for the kids.

After parents met with Florian and Bang-Knudsen, the latter decided to launch an investigation into the issue. At the upcoming school board meeting on Thursday, October 10, during public commentary parents will be invited to speak about their concerns. Florian said he will be on hand to answer questions.

This afternoon, October 8, Florian issued a letter to parents explaining what is going on and why. He wrote,

Over the eight years I have been at Woodward, we have had approximately 8-10 community members that have not been parents of current students but have volunteered their time to supervise at lunches. Several of these volunteers have been youth pastors. Several were also former parents of our students or grandparents. During this time, it has been made clear to these volunteers that school is not a place to promote your political or religious views. Our current district policy and procedure 4311 provides the guidance that “Any person whose intention is to pressure or solicit students for commercial, religious, or illegal purposes shall not be permitted on the school grounds, nor shall any person be allowed to engage in campaign activities for state, local or national elections at district facilities during the times they are in use for district-related activities.

He added, “To ensure that volunteers in our school have been complying with all district policies, we will be having a non-district employee talk with students, staff, and parents for the purpose of fact-finding and determining if anyone has violated our policy.”

School Board President Mike Spence told me he had heard that the pastors were there at the invitation of either Florian or assistant Principal Kristin Nelson. He wondered if maybe they had felt they were in a bind in terms of needing more volunteer help. Spence said that Bang-Knudsen was currently working to select the investigator. He added, “The legal principle is simple: We can’t have any exercise of religion in any of our facilities. Kids have a Constitutional right not to be proselytized to.”

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Photo by Julie Hall.

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Categorized | Community, Schools

90 Responses to “Investigation Launched into Ongoing Presence of Three Youth Pastors at Woodward Middle School”

  1. Karen Ahern says:

    I am happy this is being looked into as there was a problem with recruiting tactics by the group, Young Life, at the High School years ago and another religious group leafleting during school hours. This is recruiting to a captive audience. Young Life representatives were chumming up to students inappropriately at lunch. We need to watch dog the Constitutional necessity of Separation of Church and State in our schools. If there is a rule to fingerprint volunteers at school, it is for a reason. There have been episodes of adult misconduct, children need to be safe at schools from all forms of recruitment.

    • Matt says:

      Please…there is absolutely no evidence anyone is "recruiting" the kids at Woodward for anything. It is a sad day when members of the community cannot volunteer to be a part of the "village" it takes to raise our kids based on their religious status. I guess the "village" that the left talks about is only inclusive of those who have the same beliefs as them; or in this case a void of faith. It is an insult to all religions to be viewed with suspicion simply for having faith.

      I bet if these volunteers were Muslim and someone had a concern they would be called racist and run out of Bainbridge.

      I am ashamed that such hatred exists on Bainbridge Island!

      • Jon says:

        Hatred? Parents are trying to protect their kids. You are obviously not a parent. Parents have been unaware that adults with no kids and NO BACKGROUND checks were hanging out with their children in the gym. Even more disturbing, the principal needs to explain why Parent Volunteers are not allowed in the gym, kids are not allowed outside, and youth pastors are allowed into the gym with no background check. Have we not learned anything from all of the scandals? Of course they don't preach to them in the gym, they direct the topic of conversation and get the kids excited to attend the parties put on by the churches outside of the school. Then they preach to them. I have nothing against religion, but these parents did not sign their kids up to go to a religious school and be exposed to adults without background checks who are bypassing the standard volunteer policy (i.e. no badges, no sign-in, no background check). This is not rocket science, people!

      • Dawn says:

        Matt – you do not know that "recruiting" has not taken place. With the wealth of parent volunteers on this Island, there is simply no need to bring in outside people to sit at our lunch tables with our children – and if we are going to bring them in, there should be a generous diversity of people – that has not been the case.

        • matt says:

          Dawn- you don't know that there was "recruiting." Outside people? When are members of the community wanting to be a part of the "village" considered "outside people." So are you going to volunteer to help during lunch? Are you going to lead the "diversity committee" to determine who can volunteer and who can't. This just goes to prove the left wing "village" is only inclusive of those that meet the criteria set and enforced by the left. It is simply sad that we are concerned because three community members want to volunteer to help during lunch at a community school.

      • Karen Ahern says:

        Matt, please note I said, recruiting had occurred at the high school years ago. It was a similar situation that was allowed to go on until community members pointed out the illegality and students gave testimony to the very inappropriate behavior exhibited by Young Life's youth director which made them uncomfortable. There are policies in place to prevent such things that must be adhered to. Constant vigilance is apparently necessary to ascertain policies are followed. There is no hatred, parents have legitimate concerns in this situation.

    • Eric says:

      I can appreciate the inappropriateness of recruiting to a captive audience, but perhaps you could point to the Article or Section for this purported Constitutional necessity of Separation of Church and State? I'm not especially religious, but more pedantic about precision. I suspect you're probably thinking about the letter to the Danbury Baptists, rather than any specific proscription within the Constitution.

  2. BIGranny says:

    Being a pastor does not necessarily prevent you from doing volunteer work at a public school. In my opinion the administration of the individual churches should be asked to honestly answer to whether the individuals were encouraged into volunteerism with the specific purpose of religious recruitment. It is well known that religious organizations do in fact use student members to source potential new members. The attempt to blur the lines between the separation of church and state does exist, I hope that is not the case here.

  3. Bill says:

    Sad day for Bainbridge.

  4. Toby Jones says:

    This is not an issue about the religious status of the 3 youth pastors. It's about the fact that they are paid recruiters for various evangelical churches whose jobs involve recruiting/outreach to kids. No Public school should allow recruiters of any political or religious affiliation to engage with kids on a daily basis since it puts the school in the position of enabling these men to do what they would have difficulty doing anywhere else: making friends with students and encouraging their trust. What's particularly disgusting is that these brave men appear to have been acting like regular school employees — using the legitimacy of the school to provide cover while they sneak about making friends with your children. Pathetic. Why not do God's real work and help the homeless or feed the truly needy? Oh, I know why: because that's actually hard and requires courage. Smarmy tactics of the spineless.

  5. Toby Jones says:

    This is not an issue about the religious status of the 3 youth pastors. It's about the fact that they are paid recruiters for various evangelical churches whose jobs involve recruiting/outreach to kids. No Public school should allow recruiters of any political or religious affiliation to engage with kids on a daily basis since it puts the school in the position of enabling these men to do what they would have difficulty doing anywhere else: making friends with students and encouraging their trust. What's particularly disgusting is that these brave men appear to have been acting like regular school employees — using the legitimacy of the school to provide cover while they sneak about making friends with your children. Why not do God's real work and help the homeless or feed the truly needy?

    • Matt says:

      And let the hatred roll! You all are right, your not filled with hate because a confessed Christian is volunteering in the “village.” If these three volunteers were openly gay, or black, or openly Muslim you honestly think we would be having this conversation? You can hide all you want behind Church/State, the reality it is your hate for Christians. Talk about spineless.

      • Jon says:

        The churches involved are freaking out, because this is their primary source of recruitment. Trying to call the accusers "Christian Haters" is one defense mechanism, and the only option left for them at this point. There is so much evidence and so many witnesses, that there is really no way to deny what has been going on. They need to just admit what has been going on, so we can change the rules and move on.

  6. Porter Hall says:

    I think it’s great that our community has so little to worry about that we can focus on nonsense witch hunts like this. Good job, everyone!

  7. The posting pretends to report, but actually judges that "three male youth pastors" volunteering for lunch and recess duty at a public school is inherently wrong and should have never been allowed. Certainly all volunteers should be properly vetted to uncover past criminal behavior and convictions. It’s possible that this process may need to be improved at our schools, but I’m certain that no criminal threat motivated the complainants here.

    She seems to expect that the readers will agree with her posting and become as indignant, enraged, and supportive of the inquisition. As if we should all be aware that our school, the administration, volunteers, and churches, and Young Life are subversively colluding to indoctrinate our children into the cult of Christianity. Her post doesn't report any special insight, knowledge, or facts about the male volunteers, organizations mentioned, or Christianity. The posting did successfully and unfairly cast a negative pallor on three very vibrant, gracious and loving church bodies on our beautiful island. The only corollary that came to mind are the witch-hunts of our more sordid American history.

    • Karen Ahern says:

      I just have to point out the great irony in persons calling this a "witch hunt" when the Salem Witch Hunts
      were perpetrated by extreme, conservative Christian Zealots. Frankly, I think we are probably more concerned about a return to that very thing in protecting our Constitutional Rights to Separation of Church and State.

    • Nancy Rees says:

      Thank you for this view.

  8. Personally, I am thankful that there are "volunteers", both male and female, willing to spend their time with our children spreading God's message through good example and positive mentoring. No child was ever harmed by too much love and grace.

    • Karen Ahern says:

      Actually, Scott, at a public school that is against the law, there are very good reasons why our Constitution stipulates Separation of Church and State. There are many religious messages, many studied at school in Religious Studies within different cultures, but there is a line between that and
      possible engagement for the purpose of recruitment and proselytizing that must be adhered to. Religion is a private decision and does not belong in school. Hopefully, these volunteers were simply being helpful, but our school district has a legal responsibility to make sure laws are followed.

  9. As the post by Scott Bastiani above illustrates, you can promote an agenda without being a "paid recruiter". If there is no evidence that these men are actively promoting their religious organizations, why treat them differently based solely on their professions?

    If other non-parent volunteers are allowed, then their presence should be allowed. If volunteers are subject to a background check, then no one should be exempt.

  10. Malcolm Mead says:

    Generally speaking, it would seem that the private lives of volunteers is open to judgement these days – as long as it involves religion. Had this been about their marriage status, ethnicity, or sexuality – we'd be marching to protect them. Aside from "asking the names of other kids" (as in "hey, what's that kid's name?, perhaps to stop that other kid from doing something dumb, who knows?) – I'm hearing no reports of any actual proselytizing going on.

    Read the Crucible … it's about the testimony of children driving a witch hunt … you know … because they're "creepy." Sad … with kids doing drugs, having sex at this age, and killing themselves — how does it make sense to stop ANYBODY who wants to volunteer their time to have a positive effect, let alone all those dark and mysterious Christians?

    • Winston says:

      "how does it make sense to stop ANYBODY who wants to volunteer their time to have a positive effect"

      I can only speak for myself but I expect a higher standard in the people that are teaching my kids. Just wanting to have a positive effect is not enough, and not everyone defines "positive" in the same way anyway. Name almost any issue in the US today and there are people at completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

  11. Mj Milton says:

    I think it's very important here for everyone to step back and hear the facts before assigning blame or resorting to name calling. This will be on the agenda at the school board meeting tomorrow at 530 if any of you would like to attend.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    My husband is Catholic and I was raised Protestant and we attended both public and private, religious schools. However, I am a firm believer in the principle of the separation of church and state and do not believe religious leaders should be in a public school volunteering.
    If you take the religious debate out of it, the leaders of Woodward, felt that it was acceptable to allow men who don’t have children at the school to volunteer as “mentors”, sitting down with the kids during their lunchtime to “talk” (what about, we don’t know) at a time when I want my children to be interacting with friends, not forced to talk to a strange man they don’t know. (It turns out one of these men has a YouTube video confessing his struggle with his sex addiction.) I don’t know the character of these men and that the administration of Woodward deemed these male, non-parent volunteers to be “role models” for my kids is completely unacceptable. That they were all from churches on the island is strange. That they didn’t have to submit to background checks is outrageous. I trust that when I send my children to school, that the staff of that school will do everything in their power to protect them –and NEVER give the benefit of the doubt to anyone when it involves the safety of my children. In this case, they have failed and the school policy must be changed so that our kids can be protected.

    • Richard says:

      How hard is it to cut and paste the YouTube URL? Without evidence, it's nasty innuendo.

    • Dianne says:

      First I know two of these men and in both cases their kids are too young to go to middle school, they are parents of elementary and younger aged children. Secondly the YouTube video is not by one of these men, it's is a pastor on the island but not any youth pastor, guilt by association is unconscionably, shame on you. Third no one is "forced to talk to strange men they don't know" and asking a kid what's the name of another kid is not illegal anywhere in this country. Lastly, these men are "youth" pastor's I.e. they actually find value in what kids have to say and in working with them, it seems a natural fit to volunteer at a school. Especially since the churches they are affiliated with expect there members and church leaders to support their communities through volunteer work. I don't believe they volunteered to recruit, I truly believe they volunteered to simply support the community. I doubt you will find better men to be around your children.

      I would hate to think what would happen if someone said "The Sk

    • matt says:

      What article did you read? If you take religious out of this, there is no story. The bias on this poorly written article is all about concern they are religious. Where did the article state these volunteers are "mentors"? When did it say they are "forced" to talk with the volunteers? It is liable for you to say that one confessed having a struggle with sex addiction? We don't have the names of these volunteers? Obviously you and the rest of those driven by hate of those with faith have never volunteered at the lunch time at Woodward. If you had, you would understand that the lunch is controlled chaos, with teachers and administrators very present. There is no way the lunch time is conducive to "recruitment." I would think your kids hear enough hate at home to not be "recruited" into a church during a Woodward lunch.

      • Parent says:

        You are wrong, I have the video. The independent investigator has it all, plus more disturbing evidence. Stop denying it. The jig is up.

    • Leeanna says:

      Keep in mind, we had some teachers removed for pornography on their computers. I suspect there might be some parents out there with pornography on their computers. Yes, background check, check all adults hard drives and book shelves before allowing parents to volunteer, or before any teachers can resume teaching, or before any coaches can show up. Are the numbers diminishing? … now some people might be getting nervous. But seriously, I would dismiss this one youth pastor, if that is the case, and then I would background check every parent in the district and check for similar links and computer usage. Equal consideration. Guess we can pay for the background checks! $35 each, roughly.

  13. Toby Jones says:

    Let’s put this in another light: What if, for example, we had a Muslim Principle who belonged to a certain Mosque on the Island, right next to the Mosque that the Assistant Principle belongs to. Suddenly, over the course of 2 years, we have 3 Muslim Youth Imams as non-parent volunteers (keeping in mind there are only 3 non-parent volunteer roles to be had — despite what Florian suggests). These Imams spend their days recruiting kids and are employed by their rective Mosques. Hmmm. How do we feel about this situation? Does it seem a bit odd? Given some of the enlighted religious views express above, I supposed that even Scott and Matt would accept this as a wonderful example of God’s love and support it fully. Or is is just Youth Pastors from Evangelical Christian sects that should be able to be role models? What about Scientologists? Is is Ok to have 3 of these in the schools sitting down with YOUR daugher and inviting her to the club? Hypocracy is hesitation. Are you hesitating?

    • matt says:

      If they were Muslim then this articale would be celebrating how great it is that the school included the Muslim community into the school.
      That said, I agree that I do not want my kids being recruited for any religion or cause at school. In the situation before us, it is simply the haters, such as yourself, who are assuming that just because they are Christian that they are "recruiting" and being "mentors." There is absolutely zero, zero evidence to even suggest what you are implying. You all are making facts up to support your argument that Christians have an a hidden agenda. That is sad.
      I have zero problem with anyone volunteering to help out at lunch; regardless of their religious beliefs. A volunteer's religious beliefs should never be a part of any discussion about whether they can volunteer or not.
      But, the Christian haters such as yourself can't see the facts through your hate. Fortunately God loves you regardless of your hate. God bless you and I will pray for you.

  14. Winston Pennington III says:

    Regardless of the religious affiliation that each of these people has, it’s not clear why these people should be mentoring the kids at Woodward. Why are they there? What makes them the right people to be mentoring the kids? If people are going to be allowed into the school, and those people don’t work there or have kids in the school – shouldn’t we expect that there will be a clearly stated purpose for them to be there?

    So far, the school district has only said that they are volunteers and they are willing to share their time. Hopefully there is a lot more to it than that and there is some special insight, training, or capability that these people bring to the school – otherwise I can’t imagine why the school district would have thought it was a good idea or why it would be a good idea to make an exception to the background check rule that applies to everyone else. There are plenty of people in the world who would be happy to spend time with kids, the fact that they volunteer does not make them well suited to mentor kids or serve as role models.

    This really has nothing to do with religion, if the school is going to bring people in to mentor the kids or serve as role models, there should be a defined reason why those people were chosen, and those people should have a clear, stated purpose for working with the kids. So far, that does not seem to the case here.

  15. Marie says:

    "i don't agree with your views so you must be an awful person" this is essentially the argument of the article. As a community that promotes tolerance and acceptance of all, it seems odd that there are so many people persecuting these three volunteers (with little to no evidence of wrong doing) just because they are Christians. If you really believed in tolerance the volunteers religion would not come in to play at all and you would accept the fact that these 3 community members simply want to give back by helping out at the middle school.

    • Jim Jones says:

      Did anyone actually say that the pastors are awful people? the only thing that the parents said is that they want to enforce the constitution. And doesn't it seem a little strange that there were three spots, and all of them were filled with pastors? Its just too bad that you obviously hate the US constitution. And they were doing wrong. They were touching the students, talking to the students, and making the students feel uncomfortable. Maybe they weren't just 'community members trying to help'. My proof? well, none of them had kids at the school, none of them applied for another job such as cleaning, they all 'just happened' to be pastors, they all had the job of socializing with the kids, they TOUCHED the kids, and some kids said that the pastors made them feel uncomfortable. Is that enough info for you? Maybe you go to their church, and are just backing them up.

      • Marie says:

        No, that actually isn't enough "info" for me. Did YOU see them touching the kids? what do you mean by touch? would you be mad if a teacher placed there hand on a students shoulder as they explained a problem to him or her? because if so then you would have an issue with most teachers I have ever had. To me it would be "creepy" or "uncomfortable" if volunteers just stood staring at the kids instead of casually talking to them. Next time I volunteer I will make sure I do not say a single word to anyone, I hope that will make the environment more comfortable for those around me!
        No, I am not from their church, I am backing them up because it seems to me like the gossip-driven Bainbridge parents have nothing better to do then try to slander these volunteers.
        And no I do not hate the U.S. Constitution. I love it!! Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech! what could be better? And of course Separation of Church and State! Unfortunately I think your (and many others) understanding of separation of church and state is skewed. It does not mean that someone who has religious views can not work in a public position, If that were the case not a single one of the presidents our great nation has had would have been able to be president. Separation of Church and State simply means that religious views can not be promoted or endorsed by the government, schools, etc.
        God bless!

  16. Duane U says:

    50-60 years ago, three pastors volunteering for a school would turn no heads. It’s also true that 50-60 years ago, gum-chewing was the worst problem teachers had to deal with from the students, rather than today’s scourge of porn addiction, drugs, and violence. That’s not a coincidence!

    A handful of students think it’s “creepy” they are there? That’s because these kids’ parents have so isolated them from all things religious that they are completely detached from the idea of pastors as positive role models and caring community advocates, which once upon a time was a given in the minds of kids. And that is their loss! How very sad.

    • Houston Wade says:

      50-60 years ago, most schools had an eighth grade graduation because half the girls would end school and get married. 50-60 years ago only white kids had access to good schools and colleges. 50-60 years ago, everybody's mothers were hooked on "mama's little helpers", also know as speed. 50-60 years ago a lot of those preachers you were so proud of for visiting schools raped kids indiscriminately and without consequence. Many of those same preachers ran entire religious schools where these atrocities took place. What you see as the good old days, were just old days, and might have been good for you, but not a lot of other people.

      Most people who identify as "non-religious" are better educated than the rest of the population. Bainbridge has a less than 25% church-going population, and we are also the most educated community in America. We are living the secular dream. Don't ruin it by letting in a bunch of closed-minded evangelicals into our schools, where they can teach them to hate gays, subjugate women, and take us back to that "paradise" of the 1950s.

  17. Rachael says:

    I'll have to chime in defense of Woodward- I've volunteered at lunch time there, so I know that there's no mentoring or real interaction with the kids. It's about stepping in when there's a food fight or picking up trash or telling kids not to walk across the tables. Then cleaning up after they leave. If it's proselytizing to be a good example to kids, then by all means ban all volunteers whose values or professions or class or race we don't like because we don't want our kids seeing those people do good work in the community because the kids might get the idea that those people aren't so bad after all.

    • Jon says:

      That's because you are in the lunch room. They are in the gym, where you are not allowed in to witness the interacting. It is why it's gone on for so many years.

  18. Jon says:

    Interesting how only the religious folks are turning this into a religious battle and calling the accusers "religion haters". NEVER have the concerned parents complained about religion. This is about someone in the administration enabling a dangerous loophole for adults without background checks to walk into the gym where, mysteriously, it is the school policy to not allow Parent Volunteers in (they can only go into the lunch room). Only these "Strong Male Role Models" are allowed in the gym. Whenever asking anyone about these guys at the school, they all say, "we need strong male role models in the school". When the youth pastors themselves are asked why they are here, they say "We are here as positive male role models", kind of like robots. Unfortunately, they found some "Strong Female Role Models" who like to protect their kids. Please Warren, there is currently an open investigation, so if you have something to add to this investigation, such as your above experience last year, please contact the school district.

    • brandon says:

      Just a quick heads up Jon. Church’s do a through background check on ever adult serving with kids. Especially ones that are employed by their organization. They are as thorough or more than our schools or sports leagues. My guess is they have been vetted thoroughly. But, it is easy to be concerned for children’s safety. It is an interesting conversation to watch, heard about it on KOMO news radio.

      • Bruce Anderson says:

        Are you sure that churches perform a thorough background check on every adult serving with kids?

        I’d bet not.

      • Ross Van Haugen says:

        Are you sure about that? Not to be too snarky, but that system has not worked too well with other religious groups in the recent past.

        And the central issue is this. These gentlemen are paid by their churches to proselytize. They may “give” their time to the school, but I imagine they get a salary from someone else to do the work. They are supposed to be assisting the school in activities that the school can not afford, such as monitoring school lunches. They are not supposed to be their offering counsel to minors. They probably are not licensed to do so. And religious counseling is strictly forbidden as an illegal activity.

        And this business about strong male role models. What does this really mean? Are other male volunteers weak male role models? Who determines this anyway?

        Too many questions, and too many objectionable practices by Young Life and the others to offer anything but condemnation to the Principle and BISD for allowing this.

    • Jean says:

      Again, not true….there has never been a policy to “not allow Parent Volunteers” in the gym…they may go wherever they want. To prolong the lies is evil and unfair. The administration at WMS has done NOTHING to deserve this kind of treatment, especially from this type of “strong female role models.” They are cowards who will go behind everyone’s back to complain about things they don’t even know about. They are cowards who will not stand up for what they believe but hide behind anonymity…so tired of the lies!

  19. Martin says:

    I hope the next time these concerned parents meet someone new, “I’m Martin, your name is?” They will be careful, “Before I tell you my name, do you have any religious affiliation? I have First Amendment rights you know.” It’s just so terribly silly.

    Another lesson from Bainbridge Island, the most liberal zip code in the state. Here you have the freedom to do what you want, be who you want, express yourself as you please…unless you’re one of those nuts who still goes to church. Can’t you see the Darwin fish with feet on the back of my car? Can’t you see my Coexist bumper sticker? You church nuts should not be allowed to participate in our community because to do so would abridge our “rights,” and really we’d prefer you’d move. Bainbridge, where we invite you to coexist elsewhere.

  20. M.V. Dombrowski says:

    St. Francis is supposed to have said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” All the adults at school — teachers, parent volunteers, staff, coaches — are at all times "preaching" something by their words and actions. If the volunteer screening process is working properly, all volunteers will be subject to the same scrutiny and standards, irrespective of creed, color, etc etc etc

    Just the same – I expect tonight's board meeting to be interesting, to say the least, knowing Our Island.

  21. Jim says:

    Heres the thing: the schools are actually choosing religious pastors over regular volunteers. This is an obvious account of the denial of separation church and state.

    This is not a mere “the pastors volunteer, and now we want to get them out because of their religion”, this as a matter of the fact that the school CHOSE them over regular parents. There were three spots, and all of them were filled with pastors. Doesn’t this seem really suspicious to you? I think that the pastors were trying to weasel their way into the school to recruit kids to join their church, AND THE SCHOOL IS HELPING THEM DO IT, if not REQUESTING THEM TO DO IT! I have heard several accounts of students saying that these people are wandering around the lunchroom, talking to other students, touching other students and giving out food. What else could this be then the pastors trying to get students to join their church? If they really want to help, like they all say they do, why not go help someone that needs help? Like the homeless? I think the people that are fighting to get rid of these religious recruiters are the true ones that are helping.

  22. Houston Wade says:

    Mike Florian is an evangelical Christian; or at least he was when I told him to stop reading his church bulletin at the beginning of each class when I had him in high school (I was a 9th grader at the time). I don't trust him to be fair or unbiased on this issue as his belief system makes proselytizer of the utmost importance.

    • Kim says:

      Houston…… makes me think you were one of the kids who got picked on alot and now it’s your time to get everyone back when you post. This isn’t your first time giving your thoughts of “what someone did or was like when I HOUSTON WADE” went to school with them. I had Mr. Florian as a teacher and I never heard him reading church bulletins to us.

      • Houston Wade says:

        Kim, you can belittle me into thinking this is all about being teased by kids in school, but it's not. Today I am an astrophysicist, someone who has to have mastered every level of science, physics, and mathematics to be proficient in my field. When I was in high school Mike Florian failed me in Math even though weeks prior I had scored an 800 my SAT math section (a perfect score), and just so you know, I now work as a professor of mathematics. Mike Florian also failed me in Computer Programing (an industry I worked in for four years) and in both those instances his failing me had nothing to do with my abilities or work ethic and everything to do with informing him to stop reading his church bulletin in class. Mike Florian was the bully to me when I was in school, he was the adult and I was the child. You suck, Kim.

        • Mike says:

          Perhaps he failed you due to your attitude? Just because you think you're smarter than everyone else, it doesn't give you a pass. You know, you do actually have to do the work to pass a class.

          • Houston Wade says:

            Mike, I can have a crappy attitude towards authority, I recognize this; but attitude is not a proper reason to fail a student in an academic course. If I had told Mike Florian (by the way, is this Mike Florian?) to stop reading the Koran before each math class would I then be a hero? Should I shut up and let a teacher, a state employee, waste time in a math class to project his religion up us? Also, I don't think I am smarter than everyone else. I know it. My brain is huge.

            If I, or my parents, wanted religion to be evangelized in my school they could have sent me to Christ the King… but they didn't. If Mike Florian (you?) want to preach in class, he (you?) can go to Christ the King and teach math.

  23. Lincoln Miller says:

    Parents are legitimately justified in wanting to know who or what may be seeking to influence their children, and to be upset when that source of influence may be harmful to the well-being of their son and daughter. However, it's very disingenuous for any of us to grouse that the school, its administrators and staff should, as one commenter said, "do everything in their power to protect them –and NEVER give the benefit of the doubt to anyone when it involves the safety of my children", when we as a community and nation of parents are utterly failing our duty as parents to guard the hearts, souls and minds of our children within the boundaries of our own home. Look no further, if you dare, than Martin Daubney's absolutely stunning (and disturbing) article posted less than two weeks ago about his experience discovering what a group of 13-14 year old boys and girls in the UK knows about, well, the URL will tell you –….

  24. Lincoln Miller says:

    Parents, we should be outraged at evil influences. But, instead of outrage directed towards these young men, we should be encouraged that a young pastor (or any young person) has the guts to publicly post a shameful confession stemming from what I would confidently guess was online pornography. And we should be thankful and gracious that this young man would care enough to influence our children away from the destruction he experienced. I highly doubt the kids are debating Arminianism vs. Calvinism at the lunch room tables with these youth pastors. But, I'll bet you dollars-to-donuts there's talk about what they see online and I'll double the bet that such talk ceases when these young men are nearby. Having an influence like these pastors there is A-okay with me. There is a battle and war for our children's souls and we're on the same side. Let's make sure that investigations like the one at Woodward don't result in casualties from friendly fire.

  25. Matt says:

    The overwhelming positive support of the three volunteers last night restored my faith in the Bainbridge Island community! It also revealed that this witch hunt is being fueled by PTO member upset that she was not included in the process, a petty control issue at best; and by a couple of people perplexed why anyone would want to volunteer at a school that does not have a child their, which reveals they have no concept of public service. One of the anti-volunteer complainers even suggested that military members should not be allowed to volunteer, as they too might recruit. Unbelievable, self-absorbed arrogance.

    I encourage the Bainbridge community to continue to speak up and voice your support to the school board that a persons employment should be what determines whether it is acceptable to volunteer. Let's help define the "village" for those who are not truly inclusive at heart.

  26. Shaking head says:

    Awful news article…. This isn't news, this is gossip.

  27. Kim says:

    This reeks of someone with nothing better to do trying to make it about something when it's nothing. Seriously the parents on here who are crying foul and are worried about their kids talking to a pastor – grow up and wake up because there's alot worse things happening on the island involving kids than this – this I know as a 4th generation island and a parent of two kids who've graduated in the last five years. This truly does ring of SELF ABSORBED ARROGANCE and all those who convey this should be ashamed of themselves.

  28. Rod Stevens says:

    It is very interesting to me that this is Young Life. This same group came into my high school 40 years ago and caused considerable division.

    My Episcopalian had warned me that evangelical groups were trying to grow by targeting the most popular kids, expecting the others would follow soon after, and sure enough, that is what happened. What started as Wednesday night food and singing sessions soon led to discussion during school of who was going to "club". The Jewish kids certainly weren't going, but those of us who weren't so ready to become deeply religious felt ambivalent about our level of involvement. After all, it was instant friendship, and some of the prettiest girls were there. And, for those who were harder core, there was Malibu Camp up in Desolation Sound, one of the ultimate summer camps.

    My oldest child is at Sakai. If she were at Woodward, I would have a very deep discussion with her about the subtle forms of social coercion.

  29. Woodward Parent says:

    Has everyone forgotten the portion of the meeting where a Mom described how one of the youth pastors was acting with her daughter. I'm sure for legal reasons, everyone is afraid to mention it. The school did no background checks and invited these men in with open arms because they were with the church. Strangely, the administration doesn't allow Parent volunteers into the gym, only these youth pastors who have no kids in the school. Oh yeah, and the vice principal and principal of the school belong to these churches. Why is the fine male role model speaking so upset about being excluded from attending his non-paying job sweeping floors and preventing food fights. That's how he described his job role in his interview with the other news channel. Oh yeah, he doesn't even work in the cafeteria, he's in the back room with the kids in the gym where no food is allowed. There are a history of complaints to the principal that have been completely ignored, and he keeps saying that he just heard complaints a few weeks ago. Huge cover-up here and quite an elaborate design – Kids are not allowed outside, they must remain in the gym. Parent volunteers are not allowed in the gym. Only Youth pastors are allowed in the gym. This is why it has gone on for years, because the parents can't see them. The principal also keeps saying he needs them because there is a shortage of volunteers. The parent in charge of volunteers for the school has a huge list of parents ready to volunteer and they are regularly told that the slots have already been filled. The stories go on and on and on…

    • Disgusted says:

      Not true. Every time I volunteered at Woodward when my three kids went there I was allowed in the gym, as were the kids. Unfortunately there were not always enough volunteers to allow the kids into the gym, but when there was he kids could always go in the gym.
      The PTO person is correct…there is a long list of those saying they will volunteer, but the reality is most do not volunteer for lunch duty.

  30. Ross Van Haugen says:

    I am familiar with Young Life, as I am sure many others are. They are a very sneaky organization who can not get into the schools unless they do so under the radar, as what they do is illegal. You may not coerce children into religion!
    Young Life can not get into a school without the willing permission of the school administration. This was done a few years ago in Bainbridge High School, and was curtailed when discovered by the community in general. Now it would appear that the organization has reared its ugly head yet again to preach to a captive audience.
    For the information of most of you who do not know who they work, Young Life sneaks into school situations, tempts kids with parties and summer camps, lures the "popular" kids into the club, keeps dossiers on other kids, and engages in all kinds of sneaky maneuvering to keep the whole process going. They pay ministers and kids in school to do this and more.
    No one says kids should not or can not engage in discussions of religion or acts of worship on their own time in school. However, when a group such as Young Life creeps around kids, it is just plain wrong. The only reason it is allowed is because the school administration sanctions it. Kids who are not of the conservative Protestant faith deserve to be free from harassment from Young Life or any other such group. Shame on the Principal. He probably asked them in anyway.

    • Rod Stevens says:

      I described my experience of it. The organization came to mean a lot to a number of my friends. Nonetheless, it was an evangelical organization in the truest sense of the word, and its reach certainly extended into the school through its youth members. I am okay with that, but not with paid proselytizers.

    • Disgusted says:

      Those sneaky, creepy Christians!!! How dare they volunteer to help during school lunch! They clearly are up to no good, trying to lure these kids into a world filled with acceptance and love for all, including those who fear religion. I say we round them all up and ship them back across the mountains to the east side of the state where those of faith belong. We can't have them on Bainbridge!
      I say we get the folks from Planned Parenthood in during lunch to hand out condoms instead. Our impressionable kids can surely handle that!

  31. Rod Stevens says:

    P.S. That should have been "Episcopalian minister"

    Everyone is entitled to express their own forms of spirituality, but not in our public schools and not with young, impressionable middle school children who are worried about getting along.

  32. Kate Jackson says:

    At the school board meeting there was a LOT of testimony from parents, kids and the pastors themselves about all the great counseling these guys are doing with the Woodward kids. Without parents knowing about it. What??? I thought these guys were there to wipe tables and prevent food fights!!! Lets say for the sake of argument that instead of pastors, the principal snuck 3 plumbers into the school to help our kids solve their problems. As a parent, I'd still have a major problem with that. Aren't there regulations about counseling? Don't we have a school counselor as a paid staff person? We do, and I'll bet they are licensed by the state. If this is all so proper, why weren't parents notified it was going on?

  33. Kate Jackson says:

    "Florian said he will be on hand to answer questions." For those of you who missed the school board meeting: He wasn't on hand. He didn't answer questions. Maybe his lawyer told him to stay home.
    In the article, Florian admits he has background checks on 2 outta 3. I'm sorry, but one guy off the street with no background check, chumming around with our kids, showing up to school dances, not listed on the schedule, coming and going as he pleases, without parent knowledge or consent…that is one guy TOO MANY. I don't care what his religion is or isn't. If that doesn't creep you out, then you are incapable of being creeped out.

    • Disgusted says:

      What planet do you live on? Were you at the same meeting as the rest of the 200 people that were at the school board meeting? Guy off the street? They are not homeless guys off the street…they are members of our community; the live on the island, work on the island, have kids of their own in our school system. Chumming around with our kids? Where did you ever get that from? School dances? What other facts are you going to make up to make your point that is based on hate…disgusting!
      Those that are creating and spreading vicious lies about the volunteers live in a warped, narcissistic world where they spread their venom of hatred to support their point.
      My kids meet and interact with all kinds of adults at school that I have no knowledge of, but I trust my kids, I trust the school, I trust the other adults at the school, I trust that anyone who has ever been a volunteer at Woodward lunch room understands that there is no possible way that anything inappropriate is going on. Just the contrary…it is controlled chaos in in which the adult volunteers are doing their best to ensure the kids have a positive lunch experience.
      What is creepy to me are those creating this web of lies and hate to figuratively lynch three good men. Interestingly my kids are studying the Crucible in High School…I told them simply to watch the viciousness of this attack on three good men and they get the meaning of the Crucible.
      Bainbridge Island is changing from an island community of inclusion to an Island of hate. Very sad indeed.

      • Ross says:

        And one could ask what planet do you live on. You may be okay with Young Life and other proselytizing groups bothering your kids, but some, if not most, resent this incursion to parental decisions and wishes.
        I do not want kids to feel hatred, and I know that I felt this as a non fundamentalist Christian when confronted by Young Lifers and their friends. These people are in the school to do a job. And that job is to lure kids with camps and parties and candy into their particular brand of religion.

        No, it is your attitude that needs an adjustment, not the person to whom you responded. No one has impugned the character of these people, but certainly the circumstances of their presence and quality of their motivations.

        The content of your post reveals a very antagonistic personality prone to bursts of paranoia. Get help.

        • laughing says:

          hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahah. oh my goodness i guess if someone disagrees with you they must obviously need psychiatric help because they are paranoid. this is probably the funniest thing I have read in a long time. I literally can not stop laughing.
          If we are giving advice on paranoid tendencies, your statement "that job is to lure kids with camps and parties and candy" seems incredibly paranoid.

        • Carrie says:

          Well said, Ross. Their personal faith is not the problem here – their professional role as recruiter for youth groups is. While I have no doubt that their intentions are good (from their perspective), as a parent, I have a right to raise my children in the religion of my choosing, and I should be able to trust that the public schools are not going to select 3 paid recruiters for another brand of faith to have regular, ongoing access to my kids without my permission.

        • marie says:

          Ross, well aint the cat calling the kettle black.
          Paranoia: suspicion and mistrust of people or their actions without evidence or justification.
          there is no evidence of the volunteers showing hatred towards the students, there is no evidence they were recruiting.

        • Disgusted says:

          Typical response from those filled with hate; lose the argument so attack the person. You actually think that questioning the "quality of their motives" is not the same as implying they were up to no good? Really?
          Forgot to add that Mr. Florian was at the meeting, as he sat right in front of me; he was never asked a question. But I went to a meeting in a world where the sky is blue; maybe you went to the alternative universe meeting where the sky is red with hate. But then again I am prone to bursts of paranoia, as described by a person paranoid that evil doings are underway at Woodward because an adult, Christian with no kids at the school volunteered to help the school lunchroom.

          • Kate Jackson says:

            If Florian was at the meeting, why did he not make himself known to everyone in the room and make himself available to answer questions, in public and on the record? Why did he not make a pubic statement himself? Are you implying that parents who want answers are required to 1. know what he looks like, 2. pick him out of a large crowd, and 3. approach him singly? If it was stated by the board at the beginning of the meeting that he was in attendance, people making comments could have addressed him directly from the podium.
            This lack of openness does not foster trust or confidence among parents who were kept in the dark about all of this. It's more sneaky business-as-usual.

            • Marie says:

              It seems odd that if you make this big of a deal about lunchroom volunteers you wouldn't know what your child's principal looks like….
              If you truly are as concerned with your child's safety as you claim you are, you would know who Florian is, hes a pretty hard guy to miss. Just goes to show how this really does just have to do with the fact that the volunteers are Christians.
              Maybe you need to spend a little more time volunteering yourself before you go putting down the people who are giving their time.

  34. Concerned says:

    Excerpted from the Young Life Bainbridge Island/North Kitsap.

    God has given us a vision to reach out to every kid in every school in Bainbridge Island/North Kitsap!

    The high school/Jr. High culture is a foreign culture. If you’ve sensed God calling you to Young Life and you’ve been pleased that you don’t have to go to Africa or Ethiopia, you need to understand that the high school campus IS a foreign mission field. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few! The Young Life staff for Bainbridge Island/North Kitsap is committed to care for you and equip you for your ministry.

    Contact Work
    1. Spends 2-4 hrs per week outside of club in contact with non-Christian
    adolescents, creatively endeavoring to build friendship relationships. This contact should be a least one general and one specifically personal time
    with kids. (I thess. 2:8)
    2. Takes personal responsibility for developing deeper relationships with at
    least three non-Christian kids.

    2. Prayerfully prepares to get specific kids to camp, whom we have been
    building relationships with.

  35. Cady says:

    I just wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school. I wish that I could bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles, and we'd all eat it and be happy.

  36. If this was gays or Muslims or anybody else we would be fighting protecting these three people. And we would say to the person who is bringing the accusations that they are discriminating against these three people. This is no different from a police officer or fireman volunteering in schools and they are all part of the community. What is wrong with Western Washington??

    • Rod Stevens says:

      The issue is separation of church and state. Fire fighters and police officers do not proselytize for a living.

    • Houston Wade says:

      If it was Muslims, no. I would not stand for it as secularist and I would raise a stink. If it was gays… Well, being gay isn't a religion, nor is it a way of life that wins converts. It's also the role of these evangelical churches to basically persecute homosexuals. So your analogy has a huge flaw in its logic. Also, fireman and police officers aren't representing a religion, but providing a service that has most likely been requested of them in a professional capacity.

      If someone is paid to preach to children for a living, and then volunteers out of the blue in a school, people are right to question the motives behind these individuals actions. They might be the nicest dudes in the world, but if they are actively trying to recruit even on child to their ministry on campus during school sanctioned hours or events, they are breaking the law.

  37. Mark Welpman says:

    This whole thing is laughable. It seems to me that the folks who are against the volunteer because of their religious beliefs, are just plain old anti religious. What a sad state of affairs.

    The problem is that we need volunteers. I truly doubt that anyone here who is calling to get rid of the pastors volunteers, will volunteer to take their places.

    It appears by all reports that none the the volunteers have done anything wrong. These accusations makes it difficult for anyone to want to volunteer. In the end we all lose.

  38. jack says:

    The issue is not whether we have religious or non-religious people volunteering at our public schools. The issue is whether the individuals are using their positions to push political or religious views… whether evangelical or atheist, democrat or republican. We should all agree that our public schools should be free from such influence. There are plenty of other venues to express your views.

    Christians may feel attacked but, if these 3 men were devout atheists, they might see a cause for concern.

    Let the investigation go forward, I am confident that we will end up with better policies and oversight for how we vet our volunteers and define appropriate behaviour.

    • To add to your analogy, a more accurate comparison is if the Principal was an out atheist, and the 3 volunteers all worked full time for an atheist activist political organization, and had no kids in the school, do do think that might set off some alarm bells from parents? That would be just as illegal as the school recruiting evangelical youth pastors to come into the schools to buddy up to the students.

  39. Rick Henderson says:

    “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens … And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle”
    – George Washington

  40. MoralityRules says:

    Witch hunt or not – if there are Evangelical youth pastors asking for kids names (or anyone else for that matter) and an Evangelical Principal and Vice-Principal at Woodward, my kids are going to school elsewhere. Anyone who thinks this is non-news is burying their heads in the sand and probably goes to one of those churches. This could make national news in a heartbeat.

    If one of those dudes was trying to make friends with my kids in the hopes that they would shine a positive light on the church in an indirect way, I would be incensed. Our family would even consider moving back to Seattle where I would hope this would never be tolerated.

    This is bad stuff – the kind of stuff that can really break up a community. Don't brush it aside – it deeply offends a lot of people. Don't make light of it – have respect for those who feel it is a violation of separation of church and state.

  41. Frank says:

    Dale Perry belongs to Cross Sound Church and was in the Board Meeting cheering for the youth pastors, one of whom belongs to his church. He was cheering them on, even as the investigation was just beginning. Therefore, he's assuming his church can do no wrong. Are these actions of a leader? To take sides even before hearing the facts? Several of us stood there and watched him, yet he denies cheering for them, and wrote a comment claiming that we had the wrong guy.

    To elect Dale Perry to school board president would be a disaster for Bainbridge Island Schools.

  42. Frank says:

    Article about the strain of religion lurking in our school gym:


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