“I played a song in my after-school dance class, a job that I had for five years [and] this song mentioned the name ‘Christ,’ ” says former Lemon Grove arts teacher Kathy Villalobos. “This name…seemed to bother an administrator, a clerk, and an after-school coordinator; subsequently, I lost my job a few days later.”
“Religious art and music should not be banished from our schools,” says attorney Karen Milam of the Pacific Justice Institute, which is appealing a recent San Diego County Superior Court decision dismissing Villalobos’s claim of wrongful discrimination because “[Villalobos] had not suffered as much as the Jews in Nazi Germany.”
The song in contention, “O Sifuni Mungu,” is mostly sung in Swahili. Villalobos claims the song — chosen for its danceable African rhythm — was the cause of her termination. The Lemon Grove School District maintains she was fired mainly due to missing a number of classes and district rescheduling.
“They are also on record as saying this is about insubordination,” says Villalobos. “I have never, ever in all the five years had one complaint or warning laid against me until someone heard the name of Christ in one of my songs.… They have offered me a ‘settlement,’ what I call ‘hush money,’ and they absolutely refuse to publicly admit what they did.”