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High school teacher's suspension is filled with disturbing situations

My phone rang two weeks ago and a familiar voice was on the line.

This teacher, he said, had been suspended from Thomson High School for healing kids in class. Details were slim, and he wasn't sure when the teacher would be back in the classroom.

He finally remembered a name: Neil Osbon.

By Monday of last week, we were rolling through research, finally stumbling upon an internet journal that detailed dozens of "miraculous" incidents at THS. Mr. Osbon passionately described laying his hands on students - identified only by their initials - and commanding their aches and pains away in the name of the Lord.

And the more I read, the more I became amazed.

Forget the fact that he thrust religion into the classroom.

Forget the fact that he allowed students to heal each other in the classroom.

Forget that some of the sessions weren't even in his classroom.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect is this: He didn't put a stop to it.

In fact, he encouraged it. Reveled in it.

Now he's suspended from the classroom, and there's a chance that he may be fired. Some students are unhappy about it, going so far as to wear shirts calling for Mr. Osbon's early return to the classroom.

But unless Mr. Osbon can offer a compelling explanation, these students are missing the big picture.

This is not about restricting religion: Mr. Osbon has every right to be a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Satanist or Atheist.

This is not even about the First Amendment.

It is about insubordination.

Here's the thing: School officials gave him a chance.

They asked him - told him - to stop.

He didn't.

And that's enough to get you in trouble, whether it be at home, in school or in the workplace.

It's just part of living in the real world.

Consider this example: You are working at Burger King and are inclined to stuff fliers promoting vegetarianism in every customer's bag. It's forcing a message on an audience, even if part - or most - of the audience possesses willing ears. You will not even get a warning before being shown the door: The real world rarely allows you to really have it your way. There are rules and boundaries we must live and work within.

By many accounts, Neil Osbon was a good teacher: He engaged his students in the lessons and made his classes enjoyable. He was a good coach: At cross country practice, he chose to run with the team instead of following them in a golf car. He was a good man: He played guitar in a Christian band and volunteered for organizations.

But he made a serious error in judgment.

And - again, unless he can offer a valid explanation - there must be consequences.

McDuffie County's school leaders went out of their way to keep Neil Osbon in the classroom. They gave him a chance, and it seems he turned his back on his responsibilities.

And the man who proudly professed his efforts to help students ended up proving them a tremendous disservice in the end.

Even if some of them don't realize it yet.

Web posted on Thursday, October 25, 2007

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