Yes, there's a religion angle in the case of a Houston-area school superintendent accused of bullying a classmate as a teen. More on that in a moment.
But first, the crucial background: The top story in Sunday's Houston Chronicle concerned the furor surrounding the leader of the 77,000-student Katy Independent School District, west of Houston:
Superintendent Lance Hindt has made national headlines since a man named Greg Barrett accused Hindt of bullying him as a teen.
“Lance, you were the one who shoved my head in the urinal,” Barrett told Hindt at a March 19 school board meeting.
The Chronicle noted:
Since then, Hindt’s tenure as superintendent has come under nationwide scrutiny amid questions about his leadership and how long someone should be held responsible for something they might have done as a teenager.
Hindt denied the incident, but the controversy continued to snowball as allegations surfaced that an 18-year-old Hindt had beaten a man into a five-day coma and had thrown weights at his teammates. Hindt canceled a scheduled interview last week with a Houston Chronicle reporter but answered questions by email.
“I was disappointed by the accusation because it simply was not me who was involved in the incident described,” Hindt wrote. “I by no means suggest that the gentleman was not bullied, only that I was not part of it. Bullying is wrong. Period.”
The allegations have left the community of over 300,000 divided, with a petition to terminate and another in support of the superintendent circulating on the internet. The two sides are squaring off on Facebook, and a few are lobbing hate email to board members and threats of violence against the superintendent and his family.
So far, no religion angle.
And honestly, I wasn't reading the story as a GetReligion media critic. I was simply interested in the subject matter.
But then — bam! — came the faith element:
Some are stunned that Hindt initially seemed to chuckle when the allegations were made and didn’t offer an apology. Hindt, who previously led the Allen and Stafford school districts, told staff in an email last week that he was not a perfect teenager and has since found God.
Alrighty. Now we've got a religion angle. My immediate question: Exactly what does it mean that Hindt has "found God?"
A quick follow-up: Is that the exact wording that the superintendent used? Because, to me at least, the "found God" wording does not sound like the way someone actually would describe, um, finding God. Know what I mean?
Spoiler alert: The Chronicle did not answer my questions related to the superintendent's faith. My impression after reading the entire piece is that the newspaper wanted no part of the religion angle, at least not in this particular story. Holy ghosts, anyone?
After a bit of Googling, I came across some more details about the superintendent's email, some of them published earlier in the Chronicle.
So I suppose the paper could argue that it already covered the religion angle. But my response would be that (1) the Sunday paper has a big audience that didn't see that other little story and (2) that other little story didn't really delve into questions about Hindt's faith journey. It other words, it was haunted, too.
Here is a big chunk of the superintendent's email, as published at coveringkaty.com:
Have you ever had a defining moment in your life when you knew everything would change? Mine occurred in 1992, while listening to a sermon by Dr. Ed Young with my girlfriend (and future wife). It was at this time that I decided I wanted a personal relationship with my lord and savior. Knowing that my past had been washed away and I was a renewed person, I hitched a ride on a wonderful journey that has led me to where I am today. In between, I married my rock, my best friend, my beautiful soulmate – Kathryn. We have two dynamite kids, now young adults, Zach and Alexis. And now, I am living a dream by coming home and giving back to a community that gave so much to me, a community that helped mold and shape the person, the man, I am today.
Along this 27 year journey, I have dedicated my passion, my love and my commitment to my family, and to the students, the staffs and the communities I have been blessed to serve. As an adult, I believe and I hope that my impact on others has been positive. But I recognize, I am not a perfect person; none of us is. I certainly wasn’t as a teenager, and I am not as an adult. When I was young and dumb – I did dumb things. Because of great teachers, coaches, administrators and mentors in my life, and the unconditional love of my parents, I was able to overcome, learn and grow from my childhood mistakes. Isn’t that what life is all about? Growing. Learning. Changing. Maturing. I believe it is my adolescent years that has provided me with a better understanding of the realities of today’s students and helps me lead our phenomenal school district.
To our Katy ISD superstar staff, I am so sorry for the negative attention brought against our school district and town. It is unfortunate that half-truths, viral videos, edited tape, false statements, and gotcha moments are a part of our modern mainstream news and social media culture. These frenzied attacks lack context and certainly distort the truth. As I have seen, there is evil among us, those that will do anything to destroy someone’s good reputation and 27 year career. I will continue to fight the good fight, and proudly lead Katy ISD. However, as difficult as it has been these past couple weeks, I also choose to pray for the individuals who have brought this district harm, and I ask that you do the same.
Here's my journalistic point: If the superintendent claims he's a changed man as a result of — to use the Chronicle's terminology — finding God, then do some actual reporting to see if that's really true.
I'm not suggesting that it's possible for a reporter to come to a definitive conclusion on Hindt's character and faith. But it would be simple to ask if he has a church home, if he's a regular worship attender, if he's involved in ministries or mission trips, if there are pastors or fellow church members who can speak to his faith and their perception of it.
I'd be interested in reading that. You?