Brian Miller, NBC5 Next
POSTED: 12:13 pm CDT June 23, 2008
UPDATED: 1:38 pm CDT June 23, 2008
A Fox River Grove art teacher who was fired last year for telling his students about veganism, is still causing controversy.
Last month, Dave Warwak contacted some of his former students over the Internet and asked them to meet him at a Fox River Grove restaurant. He passed out 20 copies of his self-published book, "A Peep Show for Children Only."
According to published reports, at least one parent complained to police,
upset that a picture of an unidentified group of students in the book
included her daughter. Police investigated the incident and confiscated six
books, but no charges were filed in the case.
Warwak was fired from his job at Fox River Grove Middle School last September. He was initially suspended with pay after he offered copies of the book "The Food Revolution" to some of his students. He was reprimanded for giving out literature that was not authorized by the Illinois Board of Education and the school board later voted 7-0 to fire him. District officials said during his dismissal hearing that he was teaching veganism instead of art.
But Warwak said he was trying to teach humane education and get kids to have compassion for animals. According to transcripts from his dismissal hearing, he refused to teach unless all posters promoting drinking milk were removed from the school, and he also refused to stop speaking to the students about his beliefs.
"I want these kids to care," Warwak said. "So I create lessons that teach kids to care, and I incorporate these things into art."
Warwak's 487-page book is available for purchase on the Internet. It contains transcripts of Warwak's dealings with the school board over his firing, some of his art, and correspondence with some of his former students.
"People use the word lifestyle to describe veganism, but it's more of a philosophy," Warwak told NBC5 Next. "I think when you don't eat animal products and you don't use them in any way in your life, that's what you strive for. It's very hard in today's world."
Warwak said he began to tell his 5th through 8th grades students about the health benefits of a plant-based diet because he wanted to show them the other side of eating meat. He had about 80 students in his classes during the 2006-2007 school year.
"If you go to school and you learn about vegetarianism, veganism, and meat-eating and make your own choice isn't that better than having people do it for you? That is what school is supposed to be," Warwak said.
Warwak has appealed the school board's decision to fire him. Fox River Grove principal Tim Mahaffey said he was told by the Illinois Board of Education hearing officer not to comment about the case.
"We are waiting for a decision from the hearing officer," Mahaffey said
According to an article in the Northwest Herald, the parent who complained about her daughter's appearance in Warwak's book could file civil charges.
But Warwak remains undaunted. He says throughout history, people with radical ideas have suffered a worse fate then he has.
"They didn't put me to death -- they fired me," Warwak said.
“One of the most dangerous things that can
happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal
and get away with it” - Margaret Mead
"Kids don't care what you know till they know
that you care" - YeYe
"Education either functions as an instrument
which is used to facilitate integration of the
younger generation into the logic of the
present system and bring about conformity
or it becomes the practice of freedom, the
means by which men and women deal
critically and creatively with reality and
discover how to participate in the
transformation of their world" - Paulo Freire
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