While holding open the door for a student one day, Tutka, a longtime substitute teacher, commented to the student, “the first shall be last, but the last shall be first.” The curious student asked Tutka several times over a number of days for the source of the quote, and eventually Tutka showed the student the quote in his personal Bible so the student would know where to find it when he was at home. The student responded by saying he did not have a Bible. Tutka spontaneously handed the student his personal Bible so he could look up the quote at home.
On October 15, 2012, Phillipsburg School District abruptly suspended Tutka’s employment for giving the student his Bible. On January 14, 2013, the school board terminated him. On January 14, 2013, the school board terminated him. Tutka was reinstated in May 2017.
First Liberty Institute represented Tutka and filed a charge of discrimination against the school district with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). After a thorough investigation over almost two years, the EEOC issued a final determination letter in favor of Tutka.
In his letter dated December 15, 2014, EEOC Area Director John Waldinger said the Commission determined there is reasonable cause to believe the Phillipsburg School District discriminated against Tutka “on the basis of religion and retaliation.”
“The EEOC thoroughly investigated this matter and found that Walt Tutka is a victim of religious discrimination and retaliation and should receive justice,” said Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for First Liberty.
On May 11, 2017, First Liberty announced that Walt Tutka was reinstated as a substitute teacher.
“We are really pleased we accomplished the mission we set out to achieve – restoring Walt Tutka as a substitute teacher in Philipsburg” said Hiram Sasser. “We always knew Walt complied with all school district policies and federal laws, the EEOC agreed, and now Walt is returning to his service to the community in Philipsburg.”
For Immediate Release: May 12, 2017
Contact: First Liberty Institute, firstname.lastname@example.org
First Liberty Institute’s Statement on Fired Substitute Teacher’s Reinstatement
After almost 5 years, settlement in religious discrimination lawsuit makes Walt Tutka eligible to teach again
May 12, 2017, Belvidere, NJ—After almost 5-years of litigation and negotiation, substitute teacher Walt Tutka has resolved his claim of religious discrimination against the Phillipsburg School District, allowing him to return to substitute teaching.
The following statement may be attributed to Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel to First Liberty Institute:
We are really pleased we accomplished the mission we set out to achieve—restoring Walt Tutka as a substitute teacher in Phillipsburg. We always knew Walt complied with all school district policies and federal laws, the EEOC agreed, and now Walt is returning to his service to the community in Phillipsburg. No one should be fired from their job because of their religious beliefs. Today, not only has Walt’s religious liberty been restored, he has been given the chance to do again what he loves the most: teaching the children of Phillipsburg School District.
The controversy started in 2012, when a student asked longtime substitute teacher Walt Tutka where in the Bible a famous quote could be found. Walt pulled out his personal Bible and showed the student so the student could look up the quote at home. When the student said he did not have a Bible, Walt spontaneously gave his Bible to the student to look up the quote “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Eventually, after being suspended by the school’s principal, the school board voted to terminate Tutka’s employment. On June 19, 2013, First Liberty Institute filed an official complaint on Tutka’s behalf to the EEOC, which issued a Final Determination letter in favor of Tutka in December 2014. Read that letter here.
More about Walt Tutka’s case can be found at FirstLiberty.org/Tutka.
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About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.
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