Principal fired after asking to be whipped

Posted: Monday, November 15, 2004

WASILLA - A principal at a Christian school who was fired for being voluntarily whipped in front of two students does not regret his decision.

"I'm not bitter," Steve Unfreid said Friday of his dismissal as principal of Matanuska Christian School in Palmer.

Unfreid said his choice of discipline was inspired by the actions of Jesus. He asked teacher Joe Brost to whip him in front of two male students in the school's basement last month after the boys were caught kissing girls in the locker room for the second time in a week.

When the two seniors, 17 and 18, got caught kissing the girls in front of younger students, Unfreid said he contemplated about what discipline to hand out. He woke at 3 a.m. and prayed how to avoid expelling them.

He said that was when he remembered years ago he had cured his son of chronic lying by telling his son to hit him with a wooden ladle instead of spanking the youngster.

Later at school, Unfreid walked the boys down to a basement room with Brost. He told them, " 'Guys, this has gotta stop,'" he said. " 'I've let the atmosphere get too lax. I share in this discipline. This is a one-time deal.' "

Then the principal took off his belt, gave it to Brost, and instructed the teacher to "discipline me like you would discipline your own son," he recalled.

He told the teacher to stop only when the students acknowledged their mistake. The whole thing, starting with the trip downstairs, lasted five to 10 minutes, he said.

The next day, Unfreid mentioned the lesson in Bible class. A student in class complained, talked to school officials, and word of the incident spread. Unfreid was put on administrative leave that Thursday.

The school's board of directors unanimously decided in a closed door session to fire Unfreid. Brost resigned.

Unfreid violated school policy by not notifying parents before going ahead with discipline, particularly with "anything that unusual," school board president and acting administrator Scott Richardson said Friday.

Unfreid said in an interview Friday at his Wasilla home that he should have called the boys' parents first, but expressed no regret for his behavior.

Since coming to the school as a teacher several years ago, Unfreid said he pushed for the school to admit a married student, laid on hands in an effort to heal a girl basketball player's injured ankle, and has taken troubled students into his family's home.

"The vision I had is the love of God can change everything," Unfreid said.

Parent Mitch Rausa said he was trying to remain neutral.

"Being a believer, I know that the only one that can take on the sins of anyone is Jesus," he said.

About 20 students have left the school of roughly 120 students following the incident.



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