Pagan Community Notes: ACLU files human rights lawsuit against NM public schools, Invictus denied bail in S.C.

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Last week the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a lawsuit against Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) and Mary Jane Eastin for violations of the New Mexico Human Rights Act.

The charges stem from the reported actions of former Cibola High School teacher, Mary Jane Eastin in October of 2018 when Eastin reportedly dressed as a “voodoo witch” for Halloween and initiated a “game” with her Advanced Placement English class. The “game” consisted of her asking individual students questions and, depending on their answers, the students received either a treat of marshmallows for a correct answer or dog food if they answered incorrectly.

During the class, Eastin asked a Navajo student if she liked her braids, and when Johnson affirmed that she did, Eastin reportedly cut three inches from the student’s hair with a pair of scissors. In another incident in the same class, student McKenzie Johnson who was dressed as Little Red Riding Hood and had a bloody wolf paw print painted on her face was asked by Eastin if she was a “bloody Indian.”

Johnson filed charges of discrimination in May 2019 with the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau, but the bureau failed to reach a determination on the charges which the school district denied.

The ACLU lawsuit alleges that Eastin created a hostile learning environment and discriminated against Johnson and that the APS “failed to properly train teachers on the harms of racism and to provide for its students’ safety.”

“Students cannot possibly be expected to thrive if they have to fear being called racist and derogatory names by the very people who are entrusted with their learning and safety,” said Preston Sanchez, Indigenous Justice Attorney at the ACLU of New Mexico. “That’s why it’s imperative that we hold schools accountable when they fail to prevent or adequately address incidents of racism and harassment.”

The superintendent for the school district issued an apology after parents complained to the school about the incident, and informed the parents Eastin would not be returning to Cibola High School. Eventually, school officials said Eastin was no longer employed by the school district but did not clarify whether she had been terminated or quit. At the time the school district also said they would address issues of racism and cultural sensitivity.

The current lawsuit seeks to establish a clear precedent in which New Mexico’s anti-discrimination protections extend to students in public schools. The ACLU is also seeking financial damages.

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Seal of South Carolina

Seal of South Carolina

ROCK HILL, S.C. – In an update to an earlier TWH article, Augustus Sol Invictus was extradited on Jan. 8, 2020 from Brevard County, Florida to Rock Hill, South Carolina to face charges of kidnapping, domestic violence and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. He had been picked up and held by Brevard County on a fugitive warrant issued the Rock Hill Police department.

Invictus’ bond hearing was on January 9, 2020, and was presided over by Rock Hill City Judge Dolores Williams, who denied bond.

At the bond hearing, Rock Hill Police Department Detective Matt Beach said Invictus is a threat to the victim, a threat to public safety, a flight risk, and should be denied bond.

Beach detailed the accusations against Invictus in court. The accusations involve Invictus holding a gun to his wife’s head Dec. 12, then kidnapping her and taking her and their children, ages 1 and 2, to Jacksonville, Fla.

Eventually, Invictus’ wife escaped, contacted the police in Florida, and once she safely returned to Rock Hill, reported the situation to authorities there.

Beach said in court, “She (the victim) is one hundred percent certain Augustus will kill her,” and that Invictus’ wife told police, “It’s only a matter of time’ before he kills her if he is released.”

Beach also cited many of the often inflammatory statements Invictus has published online and as part of his campaign. “He identifies himself as an outlaw,” Beach said, “He will likely disappear as an outlaw.”

Invictus claimed in court the charges are false and that he would be owed an apology by the police. He also claimed that he is indigent and requested a public defender, which the court did appoint. York County Public defender B.J. Barrowclough is assigned to the case, and declined to comment since he had yet to review the charges.

Invictus was remanded to the York County jail to await trial. No trial date has yet been issued. If convicted on all charges, Invictus could face up to 55 years in prison.

 

In other news:

  • Submissions for The Sarasvati Book Award are being accepted until February 1, 2020. Scholarly nonfiction books published during 2018-2019 in the fields of goddess studies/women and mythology are eligible. Books submitted must be published in print, (rather than only in e-book format), and must be submitted by the publisher. Publishers are allowed only one submission for the 2018-2019 year. Anthologies and self-published works are not eligible for submission.
  • The Annual Forum of the COMISS Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings (formerly known as the Coalition on Ministry in Specialized Settings) kicked off yesterday and runs through today in Alexandria, Virginia. Circle Sanctuary ministers, Rev. Tiffany (Denora) Andes of Kansas, Rev. Selena Fox of Wisconsin, and Rev. Tim (Cern) of Indiana are in attendance. COMISS is involved in national and international initiatives and is well-known among the chaplain and pastoral counseling professions. The annual interfaith conference brings together chaplain endorsers and educators, chaplain certification organizations, and other others engaged in chaplaincy in a variety of specialized settings. Circle Sanctuary is the only Pagan organization taking part this year.
  • A newly discovered cave in Colorado that has been dubbed the “Witch’s Pantry” may help residents in Glenwood Springs halt the proposed expansion of a controversial limestone quarry. The Witch’s Pantry cave was found late last fall by two cavers on the Bureau of Land Management land and contains the bones of many unidentified mammals. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science has collected the bones and is in the process of identifying them. The surveyors that were hired by the mining company RMR showed numerous anomalies in their survey, but no caves. Researchers believe it is possible some of those anomalies might also be caves, and that the caves and the bones found could reveal clues to Colorado’s climate history and maybe even previously unknown species.
  • A Perthshire house and accompanying estate that is rumored to have been blessed by Kate McNiven, the “Witch of Monzie” is up for sale. McNiven is allegedly the last woman to be burned to death as a “witch” in Scotland in 1715. Rumor has it that on her way to be executed she cursed the entire village and all the landowners except the Laird of Cultoquhey and the Maxtone family since they had tried to save her.
  • Warner Bros. announced last Thursday that a massive Harry Potter store is slated to be opened next to Manhattan’s Flatiron Building this summer. According to The New York Daily News, “everything from personalized witch and wizard robes to “magic” wands that are exclusive to this location and, of course, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, candies inspired by the franchise that can already be scored elsewhere.” Warner Bros. said, “The store will house the largest collection of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts products in the world under one roof.”

 

Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: The Vision Tarot by Tim Thompson,  published by Carta Mundi.

Card: As de Coupes (Ace of Cups)

The week ahead is liable to be full of emotion whether it is that of joy and love or sadness and disillusion. Either way, the cup is full to overflowing. The practice of grounding and centering on a daily, if not hourly, is recommended.

 

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.