Bush Ex-staffer Terrorizes Texas Education Agency

Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 09:13 PM

Who would have thought that Our Feckless Leader's minions had still more nasty tricks up their sleeves? Ah, but yes, the Bush minion wreak terror and stupidity wherever they tread, and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is the latest victim.

I come late to this story, which actually commenced in October of 2007,when Chris Comer, TEA's director of science curriculum for more than nine years, had the audacity to forward an e-mail from her TEA account, announcing a talk by Barbara Forrest, author of "Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse" in Austin Texas. Mind you, Comer didn't initiate this e-mail; it came from the National Center for Science Education and Comer merely forwarded it. Comer didn't advocate the position of Forrest, she merely wrote "FYI" on the announcement of the talk, and forwarded it to other people involved in science education. And she had forwarded countless other messages of similar nature, also from her TEA account, during her 9 years on the job.

Unfortunately for Comer, the state of Texas, and especially its education function, is largely in the hands of the religious right. Even more unfortunately, the TEA had, in January, hired one Lizzette Reynolds as its senior adviser on statewide initiatives.

Reynolds is the Bush minion du jour for purposes of this story--she was Bush's Deputy Legislative Director when he served as Governor of Texas. Then she followed him into the Federal bureaucracy and served in the US Department of Education.

Only hours after Comer sent her e-mail, it had been brought to the attention of Reynolds, who then sent an e-mail to Comer's direct superiors stating that "This is highly inappropriate," Reynolds said in an e-mail to Comer's supervisors. "I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities. This is something that the State Board, the Governor's Office and members of the Legislature would be extremely upset to see because it assumes this is a subject that the agency supports."

One thing rapidly led to another and Comer was put on administrative leave. An internal TEA investigation resulted in a finding that Comer had violated an unwritten policy that TEA must maintain "neutrality" between biological evolution and Intelligent Design Creationism. Comer apparently was asked to resign or be fired. She resigned. Recently she has filed suit for wrongful termination.

So, a woman tasked with supporting science in the state of Texas was essentially forced out of her job for having the audacity to inform other people involved in science teaching in the state that a well known speaker was going to give a talk about science. On the theory that having sent the notice from her official e-mail account somehow implied that her agency officially favored the scientific views of the person whop was scheduled to speak. If that doesn't sound like a theory propounded by a Bush minion, then I'm not an unhappy camper.

Essentially, the TEA theory that the e-mail was a firing offense when sent from a TEA e-mail account but perfectly okay if sent from a private account amounts to a view that anything announced by TEA must be endorsed by TEA. Which is....F'ing crazy. In the world of science, you would really hope that people want to hear all kinds of views if they are reasonably well thought out and supported with evidence. Outside of Bush world and the far, far right of the Christian spectrum, Comer would be commended for sending out the announcement, whether she used her work account or her private account.

And, Bush minions being what they are, Reynolds couldn't even resist being disingenuous about her role in the whole sorry affair. When interviewed by the Austin Statesman, Reynolds professed to be surprised by Comer's resignation and claimed to not have been "kept in the loop" about what happened after she told Comer's superiors that Comer should be fired. Again, have you got that? She had immediately said that Comer should be fired, then professed surprise that Comer resigned rather than be fired.

If you haven't already decided that Lizzette Reynolds is your role model, get this: shortly after the Comer incident she again, in December of 2007, stated that another TEA staffer, Cami Jones, TEA’s director of early childhood development, should be dismissed for having the audacity to state the following in another e-mail to a colleague:

I long for the good ole’ days when we were making good things happen for young children. Those were the days….take care….
This, according to an e-mail that Reynolds fired off to Jones's supervisor, was:
Unbelievable!! That last line is a fire-able offense. I want this documented. Let’s talk
Jones apparently was not fired. And Reynolds, of course, is on record that she doesn't think these actions are having any chilling effect on TEA staffers at all.

An aside on the absurdity of the right wing's propaganda sources. Guess how good old World Nut Daily headlined their story about Comer's forced resignation and the ensuing support she received form educators?

Job lost for opposing neutrality to intelligent design

Professors back her, saying it's state's job to squash 'religion' in classrooms

Like an aggressive extraterrestrial fungus, these minions and propagandists and zealots and true believers are spreading everywhere, silently, and far too effectively. Weep for Texas today. Tomorrow shed some tears for whatever state these loons plan on invading next.