Vegan teacher dismissed by Fox River Grove school
An art teacher at Fox River Grove Middle School said he was kicked out of class by school officials this week because he was teaching students about his vegan lifestyle.
Dave Warwak, 44, said he was dismissed before the start of Wednesday's classes by Principal Tim Mahaffy and Superintendent Jacqueline Krause and told to stay away from school grounds.
The dispute between Warwak and school officials stemmed from concerns Warwak had with lunchroom posters promoting the health benefits of drinking milk.
Warwak, who excludes all animal products from his diet, said he urged school officials to remove the posters because he believed it promoted an unhealthy dietary choice.
The posters "are brainwashing them at an early age," Warwak said Thursday. "I asked the food service guy to read something, but he didn't want to. They left me no choice, I had to tell kids the truth."
Warwak said he distributed copies of the book "The Food Revolution," which promotes the health benefits of veganism, to several eighth-graders and provided excerpts to school officials.
Mahaffy sent Warwak a memo Tuesday concerning the literature and his efforts at distributing them within the school.
"If you share your opinions with colleagues and they are either not receptive or ask you not to discuss the matter with them in the future, I expect you to honor their request," according to the memo, which was provided by Warwak.
The memo continued: "I am requesting that you not use your literature or ideas about what is an appropriate diet to influence the students against our school lunch program."
Mahaffy said Thursday that Warwak still was employed by the district, but declined to comment further.
This week wasn't the first time Warwak clashed with school officials over his diet. Warwak, who has been teaching at Fox River Grove Middle School for eight years, said he became a vegan in January.
He began talking to kids informally about his diet and the need to respect animal life. An art display Warwak created using marshmallow Peeps that depicted the various ways people use animals drew some criticism from Mahaffy.
In a series of e-mail exchanges, Mahaffy expressed concern the project went too far in advocating a meat-free lifestyle.
"I don't like tying in the school's motto of respect and responsibility to a vegetarian diet," Mahaffy wrote in April. "I don't see the correlation, and I don't want to be fielding phone calls that we are pushing an agenda on the students or other staff that is not the opinion of the district."
Warwak disagreed with the contention that he was trying to push an agenda.
"I thought teachers were supposed to be influential in their students' lives and to bring them the truth," he said. "Animals have nothing to give me in return for what I'm doing. Kids get this. They don't want to be uncompassionate, disrespectful people."
Warwak said he plans to meet with school officials Monday to learn the fate of his future with the school district, but he doubts he'll have a future in the district.
"The ball is in motion," he said. "The premise is they're going to fire me."