Institutional Abuse at Veritas Academy – Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

On August 11, 2021, I was fired by Veritas Academy after only two weeks of employment.


I was given two reasons:

  1. I had publicly decried the behavior of Douglas Wilson on my personal Facebook page a year prior.
  2. I had used the pronoun “she” to refer to the Holy Spirit in my essay, “I Survived a Rural Evangelical Daddy Cult.”

The drama over these firing offenses played out over the course of an anxiety-ridden five days, August 6-11, 2021. On Friday, August 6, Bruce Etter, the Dean of Academics–and my boss–called me with some concerns. A parent of one of my incoming students had googled my name. This parent–a local preacher, I was given to understand, though I was offered no other identifying information–had emailed Ty and Bruce a list of six grave concerns about me based on what he had found on the internet.

They were these:

Bruce asked me to respond to all of these questions in an email addressed to both him and Ty Fischer in order to try and resolve the parent’s concerns–which were now also to some degree their concerns as well. I scrapped my plans for the day–which had included making salsa out of my garden tomatoes with my best friend who was visiting from out of state–and spent the entire afternoon and evening writing that email and then engaging in further conversation with Bruce and Ty.

It was excruciating. I felt eviscerated. And I still did what they asked, the best way I knew how. Including agreeing to come in to Ty’s office the next day–a Saturday–to be grilled further upon the matter since my written answers were apparently insufficient.

I agreed, on the condition that my friend could accompany me. She did and can testify to what follows.

On Saturday afternoon, August 7, I sat with knots in my stomach and listened to Ty Fischer tell me how heavy the past 24 hours had been for him, how much the whole matter was weighing him down; how he, too, had grown up in southern Indiana, in the same broad area where a majority of my abuse had taken place, and how this gave him a sense of kinship with me; how my essay, which he had now taken the time to read due to the scrutiny it had incurred since my hiring, had moved him and inspired him to be a better father, himself; how there are, of course, two sides to every story regarding the supposed problems with Doug Wilson; how Ty had heard nothing of certain incidents regarding abuses at Doug’s church, which Ty only briefly allowed me to convey and, therefore, found negligible; and how he, Ty, had personally read all of Ride, Sally, Ride, enjoyed it, could not think of why I would have issues with it–the novel about a sex robot written by a pastor–and concluded that my distaste for it was premature based upon the fact that I had not read the whole thing.

My friend confirmed for me, later, that while we had spent about an hour and a half in Ty and Bruce’s company, I had been allowed to speak for perhaps 20 minutes of that time. Time supposedly intended for a weekend interrogation where I was to give an account of my personal convictions–none of which had any bearing on my professional conduct or suitability for my job.

It became very clear to me, in that conversation, that Ty Fischer’s goal was not to understand me better, or even properly; it was to assure himself that he and I did not see eye-to-eye on two subjects of utmost importance to him: the legitimacy of Douglas Wilson, and my account of a personal experience with the Holy Spirit.

At the end of the conversation, Ty said, “Well, now I feel a lot better.”

My friend took that as a hopeful sign–that the matter had been resolved, and that I would move forward in my employment at Veritas Academy.

My gut told me differently. My gut told me Ty felt better because he had solidified his decision to get rid of me.

The following Tuesday morning, I received a phone call confirming exactly that.

Read Part 3 here–in which I am gaslit by Veritas Academy.

Institutional Abuse at Veritas Academy – Part 1

Read my Introduction to this story here.

In July of 2021, I was looking for a job in education. I am a Christian, and I have a degree in English and Classical Studies: that is, in ancient Roman and Greek history, language, and literature. Veritas Academy in Leola, PA was seeking an English teacher for their 12th grade Senior Thesis class, so I applied and was quickly offered an interview.

I had been vaguely aware of the Omnibus controversy before applying, and because I understood that Veritas Academy originally used Omnibus as a course text, I made a point to bring the issue up with Ty Fischer (editor of Omnibus and headmaster of the school) when I met him. Mr. Fischer admitted that there had been a few limited instances of plagiarism in his text, but he explained that these were purely accidental, as often happens in publishing, and that revisions had been noted for the next edition. He also noted that the school no longer uses Omnibus. This seemed reasonable to me, so I let the matter drop. I had yet to learn about the racism in the textbooks.

I also addressed Ty Fischer’s connection to Douglas Wilson up front, in my first interview. I have many issues with Douglas Wilson, not least of them how he harbors sexual predators in his church, so I wanted to know, right away, whether or not I had be a Wilson fan, too, in order to work at Veritas. In no uncertain terms, I was told “no.” I was told that a number of Veritas Academy employees are, indeed, not fans of Douglas Wilson.

Finally, as part of my application process, I included my publication history on my resume. This meant that I was up-front with Veritas Academy about my own history of child abuse, including childhood sexual assault, as I wrote about it in my essay at The Salt Collective (now defunct), “I Survived a Rural Evangelical Daddy Cult.”

When I came in for my first interview, the person conducting it told me he had read my essay, and he offered his sincerest sympathies. He was clearly moved by my account, and I was touched. This was the man who assured me that distrust and disapproval of Douglas Wilson would not be unwelcome among the ranks at Veritas Academy, despite Ty Fischer’s allegiances to Doug. I decided that was sufficient security for me to continue pursuing employment at the school.

Ty Fischer declined to read my essay, and I did not speak to him directly about Douglas Wilson as the interview process went on. Members of the board also interviewed me, and on July 26, I was offered a job. I accepted and signed an employment contract on July 27, 2021.

On August 11, 2021, I was fired.

Read Part 2 here–in which the grounds for my firing are explained.

Institutional Abuse at Veritas Academy – Introduction

Veritas Academy is a private Classical Christian school in Leola, PA, and a member of the Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS). Nestled amidst Pennsylvania farmland and characterized by stately Georgian architecture, the school was established over 25 years ago by some of the same people who founded Veritas Press, purveyor of homeschool and private Christian school curricula. Veritas Academy (not the press) is run by G. Tyler Fischer: headmaster of the school, a board member at the ACCS, and a personal friend of Douglas Wilson, who is the pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, ID, and author of Ride, Sally, Ride, a novel about a sex robot.

If that doesn’t quite bring you up short, there’s more: Ty Fischer and Doug Wilson co-edited a flagship curriculum published by Veritas Press entitled Omnibus. Some controversy arose regarding this curriculum a few years back: not only had these editors inadvertently included plagiarism in their textbooks, they had also featured racist content.

All of this matters to me for more than purely academic reasons, but that will take some time to explain thoroughly. My next series of posts, including full receipts, will recount for you the unethical and abusive treatment I experienced as an employee at Veritas Academy in 2021. Stay tuned.

Read Part 1 here–in which I am hired, then fired by Veritas Academy in the space of two weeks.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

August = Trauma

August is my hardest month.

This is my hardest week of the month.

My mother’s birthday is August 10. She shares that birthday with one of my brothers. My youngest sister’s birthday is August 15. Another brother’s birthday is August 23.

Eleven years ago, I had just moved out to Pennsylvania to date my then-boyfriend, now-husband short distance. I had a cute little half-basement apartment, all nicely fixed up. I went back home for the month of August to spend time with my family and celebrate all the birthdays.

While I was home, my apartment flooded.

I lost many treasured things, including irreplaceable keepsakes—most notably handmade books I had written myself as a child—favorite pieces of furniture (some of the first I ever bought for myself), and many other beloved books I have never managed to replace.

I came back to a massive sense of loss and displacement which continued for months.

I was also suffering massive withdrawal and culture shock after exiting what I now know was a horrifically toxic, abusive home environment. Not a soul around me knew or understood what I was suffering, including myself.

Three years later, I was married, had a toddler, and was back in Indiana for a week to celebrate my brother’s wedding and those August birthdays. The night of the 8th, he got married in the midst of one of the most anxiety-ridden, traumatic family occasions I have ever experienced. The next day, my dad moved out of my parents’ house, never to return.

Instead of any birthday celebrations, I tried to comfort my mother, tried to maintain bridges with my dad and the siblings who had moved out with him (ultimately failing completely), and had horrible GI problems for a week. I basically ate nothing that week. We went home to Pennsylvania a day early, we were so miserable, and there was nothing we could do.

Two years later, at the end of August, perhaps early September, I listened to my new sister-in-law recount in tears how my brother was an alcoholic and horribly abusive/neglectful. I had no idea until she told me. I believed her. It was massively bad. It was so bad that I ended up reporting him to CPS. Both of them cut me off. (About four years after this, my former sister-in-law texted me out of nowhere to thank me for reporting my brother. She said the evidence trail that my report had laid down enabled her to get a divorce and retain primary custody of their daughter when she was finally ready to do so. She apologized for cutting me off and explained that was the only thing she could do at the time to stay safe. I understood. I respected her for it. I don’t blame her one bit.)

Two years after reporting my brother, I’m pregnant with my third child. We’ve just moved. I’ve been horrifically sick for weeks, unable to stand smells of almost any kind, unable to stand the carpet that won’t dry in my house after being cleaned because it is the wettest summer since the 2011 flood, unable to stand the August heat. I want to crawl out of my skin every waking moment. I have no control over any part of my life, and every single experience and relationship is traumatic.

A year after this, we are driving home from my father-in-law’s birthday party on August 1 when I spy a tiny orange kitten sitting in the road. I swerve, stop, and get out. I gather it up on my lap and tell Nate to drive. It’s clearly injured. It won’t stop mewing, barely audible, pitifully. I stroke its fragile little frame, and it actually seems to fall asleep for the shortest moments on the drive. It’s still breathing, but not begging. Barely. We get it home and Nate puts the kids to bed while I try to feed it, give it water. It won’t touch a thing. Nate takes it to the emergency animal hospital in Lancaster, where they tell him it has multiple broken bones, won’t survive, and needs to be put down. He comes home, and I fall apart. To this day, it is the most beautiful, delicate, pale orange cat I have ever seen.

A year after this, and we have freshly detangled ourselves from all our toxic family, as well as our toxic church (the leadership of which told me to get lost after I uncovered a decades-old child sexual abuse case in their midst and brought it to their attention). We are trying to find a new church home. Trying to put together a sort-of makeshift family of people we can actually trust. Trying to address long-neglected problems in our marriage and work toward reform, repair, and renewal. I get a job at the end of July to teach at a local classical Christian (ACCS) school and try to gain a little more financial stability.

Two weeks later, on August 11, they fire me.

(My crime? I don’t like Doug Wilson, and I said as much online a year before I was hired. Oh, and also, I called the Holy Spirit “she” once in an essay—an essay I had put on my resume to share with them. Never mind that this pronoun choice was due to my history of abuse at the hands of my father; never mind that some of the Orthodox desert fathers and an early church guy named Boethius did the same; never mind that both my Christian therapist and my conservative pastor understand and support my deeply personal spiritual practice of communing with God’s mothering side that I am in no way proselytizing anyone about; never mind that the guy who fired me admitted that he understood and respected my thoughts on the matter—simply having someone on staff who used the word “she” within forty feet of God was not to be tolerated!)

Oh, yeah, and they never paid me for the two weeks I was on staff.

That was a year ago.

So. August.

Here we are again. Trauma still stalks the house. My basement flooded; my cat wrecked a bunch of furniture and is acting out her own traumas, which triggers mine all over again. I received a “sorry” letter in the mail from my estranged mother full of words that she failed to back up with action–again. After receiving a text that promised “I’m not ignoring this!” from another family member I asked to have a hard conversation with, I’ve received silence. I’ve got a special needs kid in therapy, a deconstructing husband in therapy, and I’ve got at least three therapy appointments of my own to attend per week. I’m homeschooling my kids (yes, we start back at it in the summer), and I’m trying to help start up a co-op for them.

I’ve woken up every morning with a stomachache for a week or two. I’ve gone to bed with a splitting headache for days. I spent most of yesterday in a great deal of pain from abdominal issues that my doctors and physical therapists have yet to pin down and effectively treat. The pain actually finally let up when we got out in the evening to spend some time with friends… as I talked and relaxed into myself, like I hadn’t been able to all day, most of the pain dissipated. And yet, as we visited, and the topic of my work history came up, and I retold the story of last year’s firing yet again, the anxiety started spiking through my hands and neck. All the fear of rejection and abandonment and hopelessness rushed right through my bloodstream again. And I was patient with it. I didn’t run away. I felt it and respected it. I kept talking. I let the terrible story out. I let it move through me, shake me, pass out of me, and extinguish. When I was done, the pain was gone.

It came back later some. I don’t know what to do about it. I’m resting and processing now—as you see. I’ve still got a cat peeing on my (now thoroughly protected) furniture, so I had more of that to deal with last night. We’ve got yet another plan to work out this behavioral problem. I don’t know if it will work. I have no guarantee that every creature and thing in this household will come through the trial unscathed. I have a history that tells me there’s basically no way we can. I have a trauma response that pushes me to check out, numb out, and take all my overwhelming stress out on all the most vulnerable things around me. I work so hard to stay present and retain hope and just do the next tiny thing, instead. I don’t always succeed.

But do you know what I think of first and foremost, every August?

This song.

I found it first years ago, before most or any of this had happened. I listened to it over, and over, and over, and over again.

It was the lullaby that held me when nothing else could or would.

It gave me the deepest sense of everything that makes this time of year good, and nurturing, and pure, and true.

Everything about the world God made underlying all my hurt that will not disappear, which was there long before my tragedy unfolded, and which will remain long after I have faded (unless the world itself is undone and remade first).

Deep goodness is true. Solid. Firm. In August.

Pixar Releases Turning Red, Generates Way More Meta-Commentary re: Their Audience Than Anyone Was Ready For

Disclaimer: I have not seen this film and probably never will.

In the classic vein of Drama I Do Not Have Time For, Turning Red has overtaken my social media stream this week as equally outraged and delighted parents, all women, weigh in with their takes. Were it not for the surprising diversity on display in these strong opinions, I would have gone on my (usually not very) merry way. But I swear, at this point the movie itself simply cannot live up to the hype any way you dice it: the social narratives about the meta-narratives in the movie have already been worth the popcorn investment.

Some people say the movie normalizes grooming teenagers for sexual abuse. Some people say it normalizes much-needed discussions of topics that never should have been taboo. Some people say it promotes “harmful stereotypes” of mother-daughter relationships. Others say it depicts their true-to-life experience of abuse so accurately that it would be triggering to watch!

I can’t verify the accuracy of any of these evaluations without watching the movie, and I’m just not interested in the movie one way or the other, so I’m not going to even try. What I am here to do, however, is to point out that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I love the fact that Pixar has created something that highlights how different our vantage points often are—and how easily we overlook, dismiss, or ignore the perspectives of others in favor of exclusively focusing on our own.

Speaking as a repentant abject Judgy McJudgerson, myself.

Just because someone has a different take on something doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Just because someone thinks I’m wrong doesn’t mean I’m wrong. And… just because I think someone else is wrong doesn’t make them wrong, either… in and of itself.

But it might be wrong of us to write each other off just because we see things differently.

That’s actually the one thing that bothers me in the review linked above: it doesn’t grant that there are other takes on the mother/daughter dynamic in the movie.

I really like and appreciate this mom’s assessment of the movie overall, though. She’s pretty even-keeled. She owns her part in how the media showed up in her home without a trace of either self-shaming or deflecting (SO GOOD!). She can handle talking about puberty with her kids, whether or not she or they were prepared to do so (way to think on her feet and rise to the occasion!). She’s honest and real about what she didn’t like or appreciate about this experience for her family that she legit wishes had gone differently (yes, she is entitled to her own preferences, likes and dislikes!). She doesn’t mud-sling or denigrate Disney/Pixar but clearly communicates the simple facts about her prior expectations for their movies and describes, again very simply and calmly, how those weren’t met, and how, given that experience, she will plan to approach their media differently in future—and clearly describes how she would like them to handle such media of theirs in future, too, in case they would be willing to consider that.

These are all hallmarks of respectful, mature conversation. Brava!

Then, near the end, there’s that part about “harmful stereotypes of relationships with mothers and daughters.”

Well… ok, Redemption Unveiled Podcast. I see why you say that. I totally see how this negative depiction of a parent-child relationship could have scared you and your littles and damaged the sweet, trusting rapport you have worked so hard to cultivate with them. That is truly unfortunate, and I am sorry. Nobody warned you and you got signed up for this ride without your knowing consent and now you’re stuck doing damage control and that’s a shame. It is. I mean that.

But, uh, there’s something you need to know… depictions of negative, destructive, harmful parenting, are not… stereotypes.

They are just truths that you, and especially your children, are very blessed to not have present in your immediate family.

That can’t be said for a lot of people. Particularly… a lot of kids out there.

Kids who do indeed, for very good reason, feel just like this character you’ve quoted from the movie (that part I can legit comment on since you kindly shared it): “I’ve been obsessed with my moms approval my whole life. I couldn’t take losing it, but losing you guys feels even worse.”

Friend, I’d like you to know that I wish somebody, even if it was just some cartoon movie narrative, had presented me with this life lesson as an option when I was a teen.

It might have saved me from another two decades of solid grief, abuse, and arrested development.

Here’s the thing: some kids actually need stories like this to tell them the truth about their parents. Even, maybe especially, when those kids have grown up to be adults and still don’t know any better.

Because their parents sure as heck aren’t going to tell them.

And their parents’ friends sure aren’t going to tell them because, well, they’re the parents’ friends, and we have a society full of grown-ups more willing to look out for the interests of their fellow grown-ups than for the vulnerable children being exploited in their midst.

Sometimes we need stories from people who’ve never met us and never will to speak the truth that we desperately need to hear that not a single person we actually know will ever say.

That is why I am fundamentally grateful Pixar is creating stories like this, even though you may not be.

I am sorry this movie was a waste of your time, and I’m not denying that it was; it clearly was. But it’s not going to be a waste of someone else’s time. In fact, someone else out there really needs to see it.

And you know what? It would not be a waste of your time… for you to sit down with that person, whether a child or an adult… as an engaged and observant and supportive and quiet and listening friend… and watch this movie with them. And talk about it.

Ask them how it spoke to them. Ask them if it resonates at all. Ask them how safe they feel at home, how seen they feel, how respected they feel. Ask them if they just want to talk about any of it.

Maybe start with just that last one first.

And then really, really listen.

Because, friend, if someone had done something like that for me when I was a kid–if that kind of appreciation for different, unfamiliar, even uncomfortable perspectives on stuff like this had existed when I was a kid–maybe you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation today.

Maybe we wouldn’t have to.

Maybe you would still accidentally stumble into the misfortune of having your own kids unnecessarily exposed to this subject matter… but maybe then you would be better equipped to have a conversation about how, sadly, parents like that do exist, and the kids of those parents need love and help, and because your kiddos have good and kind and loving parents… they can grow up to be good parents themselves and maybe even show hurting little kids like that what it is to be truly loved.


P.S. Also can you please not use sarcastic quote marks to discredit the main character whenever she talks about her true self? Because, um, that tells survivors of child abuse (like me) that they don’t actually know themselves and what they’ve gone through… even though nobody else could possibly know everything they’ve gone through as well as they do. Let’s all please keep in mind that God designed each individual human to be literally the best-qualified human on the planet to know who he or she is… because God did not make people to be a hive mind. Nobody gets to know my mind and heart and life like I do, and I don’t get to know that about anybody else. Nobody but God has that insight (Jer. 17:9-10).