- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Florida middle school teacher has erected a satanic display next to a Christmas Nativity scene at a public park in Boca Raton, outraging some locals and prompting vandals to damage it Tuesday afternoon.

Preston Smith, a language arts teacher at Boca Raton Community Middle School, was granted permission by the city to display a large inverted pentagram with the words, “May the children hail Satan” until Jan. 6 at Sanborn Square downtown.

According to reporters in Florida on Tuesday, vandals sometime Tuesday morning attached a chain from a vehicle and yanked the sculpture down, dragging it several feet.

Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie called the display “offensive” but defended the teacher’s First Amendment rights.

But the president of the middle school’s Parent Teacher Association wants Mr. Smith fired and plans to join other parents in protest outside of the school Wednesday, an NBC News affiliate reported. “A teacher we entrust our children with should not be putting a sign like this anywhere,” said Kim Bremer, a parent.

Solange Bush tried to pull her 14-year-old son out of Mr. Smith’s class, but scheduling conflicts made it impossible. “I just don’t feel comfortable about it, and I don’t agree with it,” Ms. Bush told NBC.

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa said he understands parents’ concerns, but he defended the teacher’s freedom of expression outside of the classroom.

“We certainly can’t micromanage what an individual does outside of the schoolhouse,” Mr. Avossa told NBC.

“I am aware of the situation. This isn’t the first time this individual has participated in an activity like that. What we do is answer any questions as they come up at the school.”

Mr. Smith said he has no plans to stop teaching at the school. He told NBC that he does not “proselytize my own viewpoints in the classroom or disparage any child’s personal faith.”

“Students have an uncanny ability to be more tolerant, respectful, and educated about diversity than most adults. There is a mutual understanding not to discuss the display with me on campus,” Mr. Smith wrote.

He explained that his “satanic” display is a counterprotest against the Nativity scene in Sanborn Square, which he said “performs an annual reenactment of predatory indoctrination in a public park targeting young children before they have critical thinking skills.”

Police said Mr. Smith’s display has been vandalized at least three times since it was erected on Dec. 7. Police said Tuesday morning that the display had been taken down and damaged. A day earlier, Mr. Smith filed a police report saying the display had been vandalized with spray paint, The Palm Beach Post reported.


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