Western New Jersey

Phillipsburg to consider banning substitute teacher Walter Tutka for showing Bible to student

School: Walter Tutka showed Bible to student after he asked about a verse Tutka quoted

P'burg to consider banning substitute for showing Bible

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - Phillipsburg School District left substitute teacher Walter Tutka in limbo, as the decision to remove him from the substitute list for showing a Bible to a student in school remained up in the air.

The Phillipsburg School Board still has yet to vote upon the issue which was originally on the November 19 school board meeting agenda.

Tutka originally quoted the Bible saying, "So the last will be first, and the first will be last" to a student who was last in line leaving the classroom. The student asked Tutka where the statement was from and inquired about it seven times, Tutka said at the school board meeting last month.  Tutka used his own personal copy of the New Testament in order to show the student from where he quoted the saying.

Many citizens spoke in support of the substitute, causing the board to table the vote until the next school board meeting. But the action for Tutka's removal was not listed on the agenda of the school board meeting Monday night, even though Tutka's friends said he received a letter from the district indicating otherwise.

School board president Kevin DeGerolamo stated he could not comment as to why the item was not listed for action on Monday night's agenda due to the confidentially of a personnel issue.

Due to a three-minute public comment time limitation, it took four speakers to read a previously written statement in support of the substitute and his actions to the board.

The statement mentioned that the school libraries carry more than 100 books about religion including, "Bible Stories for Pleasure Reading," "A Biblical Garden," "The Story of Christmas," and "Chicken Soup for the Christian Teenage Soul," and that Tutka remained neutral, only answering the child's question.

"I think it's going to turn out to be on the positive end," stated Tutka about his hope for the outcome. "After all, it is Christmas."

After an executive session by the school board on personnel issues, no action or discussion was taken after their deliberation. When asked if the issue regarding Tutka would be on a future agenda for action, DeGerolamo stated, "It's possible."

The next Phillipsburg School Board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. January 7 at Phillipsburg Middle School, 525 Warren St., Phillipsburg.

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