The “God is Dead” drawings based on the play 'The Crucible,' which upset a parent and sparked a community dialogue, is no longer hanging in an Alcovy High School classroom.
The student drawings were taken down Tuesday because ‘The Crucible’ is not currently being taught in the class and, therefore students have no context in which to view it, Newton County Schools Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey said Wednesday, noting that the issue is not one of religion and the drawings could be put back up later when the play is being taught.
After her daughter said the drawings made her feel uncomfortable, parent Crystal Mitchell spoke with Fox 5 Atlanta and later with The News and other media, and the story has been widely disseminated on the web.
Mitchell described the drawings as a “picture of a noose with the wings hanging and then between the wings it says, ‘God is Dead;’ and then there is a picture of the lady… apparently holding like a voodoo doll, and then there is a noose hanging behind her and it says, ‘God is Dead.’ Then there is another picture of the devil. And it says, ‘The Devil is Alive,’ and it’s just a collage of these pictures.
"They are not allowed to pray in schools; they are not allowed to speak religion," Mitchell told The News previously. "Personally, I just don’t feel like it has a place on the school walls in a public school.”
However, Fuhrey said Wednesday the issue had nothing to do with religion or free speech.
“Ultimately, the matter involving ‘The Crucible’ is not about religion or free speech; it is, however, a case about relevant course curriculum and instruction. Currently, the teacher does not teach American Literature, the course in which ‘The Crucible’ is taught; therefore, the artwork has no context--- no background knowledge upon which the students in the classroom could reflect to make meaning of the former students’ art work,” Fuhrey said in an email Wednesday.
“The students were left to develop their own understanding of the artwork in the absence of speaking to the teacher directly or contacting an administrator for purposes of clarification. The students in the class in question will study ‘The Crucible’ when they take the American Literature course and in doing so, will be provided the context that will help, retrospectively, ‘make sense’ of the artwork.
“I (and the school system) support the teacher’s use of the students’ response (the artwork) to literature instructional technique, but it must be tied to the curriculum she is charged to teach. In this particular case, when presented with the aforementioned information, the teacher made the decision to remove the artwork until such time that she teaches the American Literature course and ‘The Crucible’ as part of the associated curriculum.”
Mitchell took to the Facebook page she created, "God is Alive in Newton" to thank everyone involved for taking down the drawings.
"I would like to publicly thank the (Board of Education and) especially the teacher for revisiting this situation and talking with our daughter and obviously understanding her view....this wasn't easy for her or us. We never had the intentions of any repercussion to the teacher at all....we respect her position in the classroom and hope that the students will now be eager to learn the book themselves and have an open discussion of the Salem witch trials and hopefully ask questions that pertain to this quote that got so much attention," Mitchell said.
"Malice was never ever our intention. But to let our girls know that it's ok to stand up for something you believe in especially if it pertains to their love for God....even if it feels half the world is against you! 'When he's with you you never stand alone' may God continue to bless everyone who has been on this 'crusade' with me and my family! Feeling super humbled and blessed in everyway. I can honestly say this has changed our life!"
County Commissioner John Douglas first mentioned that the drawings had been removed during Tuesday night’s Newton County Board of Commissioners meeting. Douglas previously expressed his disappointment in the school system’s initial response to leave the drawing up.
He said Fuhrey made the decision because the play isn’t being studied, but also because she didn’t think the school system need a national distraction.
The Newton County School System initially said it would not remove the drawings, because it was simply "reflecting a major quote and event in the play, ‘The Crucible,’ a piece of literature read by thousands of students across the nation each year.”
"The artwork is in no way an attack on religion," school system spokeswoman Sherri Davis-Viniard said previously. "The artwork is hanging among other student artwork in a display that reflects the entire play, ‘The Crucible.’"
Davis-Viniard said previously school system officials have spoken to attorneys and were informed that it was "absolutely fine to display the artwork, as it is not a religious piece — it’s reflecting literature."
Mitchell said previously she was not asking for any punishment of the teacher but said felt allowing the drawings to be displayed was a double standard.
“My daughter not knowing the story … and she’s all about church and God. I mean, she’s a great kid … this really made her feel uncomfortable,” Mitchell said previously.
‘The Crucible’ was written by American playwright Arthur Miller and was first performed in 1953; it is a dramatization of the Salem witch trials, which took place in multiple towns in colonial Massachusetts in 1692-1693.
Reporter Danielle Everson contributed to this story.