Park Ridge Showdown Parents Protest Firing Of Montessori Teachers

Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Date: April 19, 1986

Scientologists and opponents of cults waged a war of leaflets last night as more than 100 angry parents confronted two representatives of a Park Ridge Montessori school that fired five teachers in a furor over teaching materials.

Claiming their children had been traumatized by the abrupt firings, some parents threatened a breach-of-contract lawsuit.

Parents said two-thirds of the more than 200 students at the school were withdrawn because the teachers were fired when they refused to use books designed by the founder of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard.

The parents also expressed anger that the firings came with only six weeks left in the school year.

Janet R. Bowes, administrator of Children's Learning World, 2703 W. Sibley in the northwest suburb, later agreed, through her son-in-law, to meet today with 10 of the parents, they said. Confrontation

Bowes was not, however, present at last night's confrontation, held in a senior-citizen center at Western and Touhy. Instead, she sent a message that she would meet individually with parents.

At last night's meeting, Scientology followers passed out leaflets, while opponents distributed their own material warning against indoctrination by cults.

Parents complained that Bowes had introduced Scientology teaching material into the school's curriculum without prior notice and had fired the five teachers for refusing to use it.

Bowes, through reprsentatives Gene Gross and Mike Rock, her son-in-law, claimed the teachers had been fired for trying to recruit students for a new school they plan to open next fall. The five teachers, who were at the gathering, denied Bowes' claim. Bowes' statement

In a statement read by Rock, Bowes said, "This is, was and will continue to be a Montessori school. We are not putting Scientology, Catholicism, Judaism, Protestantism or any other religion in the (school)."

However, parents and the fired teachers claim that Bowes had introduced several materials prepared by L. Ron Hubbard, the controversial founder of the Church of Scientology. Among them, they said, were admonitions to the elementary-school students not to be promiscuous and to be faithful to their sexual partners.

Jim Valencia, whose 11-year-old daughter attends the school, said of Bowes, "If she wants a school of Scientology, let her put a sign up. We bought a Montessori education," referring to the teaching method developed by Maria Montessori that emphasizes giving children a positive attitude about all forms of learning.

Valencia said all the children in his daughter's class were crying when they arrived at school on Wednesday to learn that their teacher had been dismissed. Bowes, he said, did not even permit the students to call their parents so that they could go home.

Parent Charlene Kukla called it "irresponsible" for Bowes to fire teachers with whom children had emotional bonds. "She summarily acted and fired," Kukla said. "What do we do with our children now?"

When Rock defended Bowes' use of the Scientology material by saying, "Well, that's what she wants, and it's her school," several parents retorted, "It's our school."

Margaret Toan, whose two sons attend the school, said of the Scientology material, "I have been deceived."