[Editor's note: The following article was set to run in the St. Louis Argus on October 13, 2005. While at the printer, the publisher pulled the article and replaced it with a press release from Applied Scholastics. A senior vice president of Applied Scholastics, Mary Adams, invited the publisher, Eddie Hasan, to visit their headquarters with his daughter to meet Isaac Hayes.]
by Peter Downs
October 11, 2005 — Chris Wright, the superintendent of Hazelwood Public Schools, has written a sharply-worded letter to the chief executive office of Applied Scholastics rejecting her claim that the company is working with Hazelwood Public Schools to tutor students from low performing schools.
In the letter, dated October 4, 2005, Wright characterizes the claim by Bennetta Slaughter of Applied Scholastics as “patently false.”
Wright continued: “We have repeatedly indicated that we are not interested in your services, not willing to participate in your training programs, do not want your materials, and will not enter into any association with Applied Scholastics.”
Adding that Hazelwood Public Schools intends to provide any tutoring required by federal law itself, Wright concluded her letter to Slaughter stating: “We do not need or want an association with Applied Scholastics.”
In a separate letter to Kent King, commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Wright explained her rejection of Applied Scholastics. She said that the company, which has its world headquarters in the Hazelwood school district, has approached the district many times during the last three years about working together. “We investigated them thoroughly . . . and found that they were closely connected to the Church of Scientology. We made the decision that this connection was not in the interests of our children and refused all efforts to “partner” with the District.”
Ellen Mahler-Forney, a spokesperson for the Church of Scientology in University City, said Wright’s attitude reflects a misunderstanding of the church. “We are a new religion,” she said, and “any new religion has a lot of misunderstanding to overcome.”
While taken aback by the tone of Wright’s letter, the officers of Applied Scholastics said it does not affect their plans to tutor students from Hazelwood Public Schools. “It is not [Wright's] decision,” said Mary Adams, senior vice president for external affairs at Applied Scholastics. “The senior vice president for external affairs at Applied Scholastics. “The choice is the parents. If they chose us to tutor their children, the school district has to pay for, because we are an approved provider in Missouri.”
Wright, however, is urging King to reevaluate the approval of Applied Scholastics. “As the Department reviews renewal applications from potential providers for Supplemental Education Services this year,” she wrote, “I hope that you will evaluate those programs which have already been approved and establish some criteria for their approval.”
Wright’s was not the only letter King received last week urging him to reevaluate Applied Scholastics. David Touretzky, research professor in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University, also sent a letter detailing his claims that: “What Applied Scholastics calls secular “study technology” is actually covert instruction in the Scientology religion.”
Adams and other representatives of Applied Scholastics and its parent company, Association for Better Living and Education International, denied that Applied Scholastics covertly instructs students in the Scientology religion. They said the Church of Scientology does use “study technology,” but only as a way to help church members study their religious texts, not as part of the religion itself.