Vegan Teacher May Lose His Job
By Jeff Long and Carolyn Starks, September 7, 2007
Dave Warwak has taught art at Fox River Grove Middle School
for eight years, and for most of that time, he was happy to
eat meatloaf, hot dogs or whatever else the cafeteria workers
But in January he became a vegan and started spreading the
word about the benefits of a meatless diet to students at the
McHenry County school. He even built an exhibit out of candy
that depicted animals in cages and as road kill.
On Thursday, Warwak said his crusade might cost him his job.
He said he was told to stay away from class this week by
administrators he described as "ardent meat-eaters. "
Warwak, of Williams Bay, Wis., near Lake Geneva, said he is
scheduled to meet with Fox River Grove District 3 officials
Monday about the discussions he's had in class about
vegetarianism, which excludes meats, and veganism, which
excludes meats and other animal products such as milk. Officials
asked him to leave the school Tuesday because he refused to stop
talking about the harms humans cause animals, he said.
Principal Tim Mahaffy declined to comment Thursday, calling the
dispute a personnel issue. He would not discuss issues raised
by Warwak or verify the teacher's version of events.
The candy display came down after three days, when Mahaffy
decided it was too much of a "PETA advertisement, " Warwak
said. The battle over diet lessons resumed this week after
Warwak distributed the book "The Food Revolution" to his
8th-grade students and talked to his classes about vegetarianism.
"It's probably one of the most life-changing books a person can
read," Warwak said of the book, written by John Robbins and
subtitled, "How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and the World."
"It's about how we're destroying the planet with pollution from
factory farming," Warwak said. "It's about health. It's about
Neither the American Civil Liberties Union nor the Illinois
Education Association had an opinion on the case, but Warwak
drew support from animal rights advocates.
"We believe that in a time when there's so much violence,
especially in schools, that teachers who show kindness and
compassion for all life should be commended," said Nathan
Runkle, executive director of the Chicago-based Mercy for
Animals advocacy group, which lobbies against factory farms.
"It's appropriate for students to learn about the horrendous
cruelty that animals endure on factory farms, and about the
benefits of a healthy diet."
Runkle said his group plans to write a letter to the school
in support of Warwak.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, is
giving Warwak its "Compassionate Educator" award, vice president
Bruce Friedrich said. The group is also sending the school a
letter in support of the teacher.
Warwak, meanwhile, sees no problem discussing the topic he cares
about passionately during art classes.
"It's art in every way," he said. "Art is something different
for everyone...Art is like philosophy."
District 3 Supt. Jacqueline Krause was out of the office
Thursday and unavailable for comment. Warwak, who said he
makes $55,000 per year, said he feels a responsibility to
warn his students about the dangers of what he calls an
unhealthy diet and to open their minds to new ideas.
"I'm telling kids, 'Don't believe everything you see and
everything you read,'" he said. "I'm trying to get them
curious enough to check things out for themselves."
Your letter of support can be forwarded to Jeff Long,
the reporter. firstname.lastname@example.org
and to Dave: email@example.com
Dave's very cool website: