Fairfax County teacher Carol Gratchen, who was suspended in May after being accused of teaching religion to her students, said yesterday she has been notified that school officials will seek to have her fired, a decision she will contest.
Gratchen, a seventh-grade teacher at Lanier Intermediate School, has said she led after-school prayer sessions in which she anointed students with oil, but said she did not violate school policy because she held the meetings after class hours.
School officials challenged her conclusion, saying Gratchen's prayer sessions took place in "contract hours" during which the school system was paying her salary.
They said her actions also violated school system policy requiring teachers to be neutral with respect to religion.
Gratchen, who declined to be interviewed at length, said yesterday she was notified in a letter late Thursday from Assistant Superintendent Edward W. Carr that school officials would ask the School Board to fire her. The next regular School Board meeting is Sept. 3.
"I will contest this," Gratchen said. She would not elaborate, but a man she has described as her spokesman, Fellowship of Christian Educators President Bill Wheaton, said she likely would bypass having a fact-finding panel write a report on the case and would go directly to a School Board hearing.
Gratchen, who was suspended with pay, faces a pay freeze if she returns to the classroom because she received a low performance rating from her principal.
The Fellowship of Christian Educators, a local group supporting Gratchen's efforts to keep her job, yesterday released the letter firing Gratchen and her performance evaluation, which stated that her low rating stemmed from religious discussions she held with students.
Gratchen has expressed her views in a fellowship newsletter, saying she held Thursday afternoon sessions for 12 to 14 students at their request.
Because of reprimands from school officials, she said she asked the students not to tell their parents who was "encouraging them to be witnesses for Christ," and she said she did not object when one student stood guard at the classroom door during the prayer sessions.