The Dishonest Firing of an Honest Woman

I try to make it a habit to not use much of anything I find on PZ Myers blog. It’s not because I don’t like his blog – I do, it’s great – but I’d rather not be stealing the man’s ideas or topics (there’s enough science to go around). But he recently made a post about the travesty that’s been happening to Christine Comer. As a few of you may know, she was forced to resign from her position as the Director of Science for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) because she circulated some information about a talk denouncing the bullshit that is intelligent design. It didn’t denounce the religion of intelligent design, but rather the faux science that it is. Because the TEA has a neutrality policy on the issue, Comer was told she’d either be fired or she could resign (and keep her pension). She resigned.

Comer currently has a lawsuit pending which contends what happened to her was illegal because teaching or endorsing creationism is unconstitutional.

So what we have now is a report released from Texans for Better Science Education (TBSE), an organization, despite its name, actually devoted to destroying science in favor of magic. Fortunately, Steven Shafersman has a full account of what’s actually going on.

Now, let’s examine the incidents of “insubordination” and “misconduct” that TBSE’s Mark Ramsey and DI’s John West claim disqualifies Chris Comer’s claim that her employment was terminated illegally. In the TBSE timeline, Ramsey emphatically makes the accusation that, “During her employment at the TEA, Comer received…three disciplinary letters spanning at least eight separate incidents, and seven of these eight incidents had nothing to do with evolution.” But there’s more to this charge than meets the eye. Chris began work at TEA in 1997, and until 2007 there is only one serious charge in all the documents against Chris. This is the June 12, 2003, Letter of Reprimand and Notice of Disciplinary Probation from Ann Smisko, Associate Commissioner. Chris was accused of getting a small amount of money from a TEA Comprehensive Assessment Training in Science (CATS) grant to Alamo Community College District (ACCD) for travel expenses. Chris was told the money was from the San Antonio Education Foundation, not from the ACCD. Also, she could not provide receipts for the reimbursed travel expenses. In fact, she received no funds from either the CATS grant or ACCD as the continued investigation showed.

A second charge was that she took money as a consultant for work on the Texas Atlas Project, another CATS project, which was conducted on her own time. Employees are forbidden to take any money for consulting without submitting a Disclosure Reporting Form, and Chris failed to do this. This is a very minor infraction. For these two charges, the letter was the only disciplinary action Chris received, because, in fact, the charges were so minor. The letter states that “the disciplinary action is based on information available at this time and the preliminary findings of the Internal Auditor.” There were no further findings or charges. She was told later that she was completely cleared of suspicion, but Ramsey and West don’t want to inform you of that. The mistaken Letter of Reprimand and Notice of Disciplinary Probation should have been removed from Chris’s file, and Ramsey and West should apologize to her now.

Now this is important: the charges in this letter were the only misconduct charges Chris received during the first nine years of her employment at TEA. The remaining seven incidents all came during one year after the Perry-McLeroy-Scott-Reynolds anti-science cabal started to take over the TEA. Thus, contrary to several statements by Comer antagonists, Chris did not have (1) “a history of disciplinary issues” as Ramsey wrote, (2) “a long history of disciplinary problems” as West wrote, and was not (3) “an employee who has no legal case against the agency because she abused her position for years” as Lizzette Reynolds wrote (p. 16 of pdf file). Each of these claims increases in malice and untruthfulness. What is their motivation to direct so much animosity at Chris Comer?

So what we have is a set of creationists who have been given authority on subjects over which they have no grasp going around and firing people for teaching the unifying principle of an entire field of science. What’s more, they’re dragging this woman through the mud by claiming that she has all sorts of infractions and insubordinations. In reality (a place these creationists seem to deny as much as possible), Comer had a minor infraction plus 7 made-up infractions which were attributed to her for the sake of destroying science (something which doesn’t jive well with this blogger’s url) only after a set of creationists gained authority.

Let’s hope these patently dishonest creationists are successfully sued. Maybe then Texas will realize it needs to throw these yahoos out.