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Teacher suspended for vegan views

--- Art display with Peeps leads to suspension

Chris Schultz /The Janesville Gazette

(Published Sept. 24, 2007, 2:02 p.m.)

Dave Warwak, 44, wears cotton jeans, canvas-topped gym shoes and a yellow and green dashiki.

A nine-year resident of Williams Bay, he looks like a local artist.

But Warwak, an art teacher in Illionois, is now in a dispute with the north Illinois school district where he works over what people eat.

Marshmallow chicks may have started the problems.

Until last week, Warwak taught at Fox River Grove (Ill.) Middle School in Lake County. He taught there for eight years.

"It's a nice school," Warwak said of the middle school. "The kids are great and I had no problems with the staff until this year."

Now, he said, he's banned from Fox River Grove school property.

In January, Warwak became a vegan. Vegans do not eat meat or any food from animals, such as dairy products. Nor do they use any products made from animals.

Vegans believe that eating meat and using animal products causes many of humanity's social and physical ills, Warwak said.

School officials suspended Warwak last week. Warwak said the suspension is for promoting his beliefs while in the school.

Warwak said he became disturbed last school year when some students in his class talked about harming animals with guns and knives.

In a special project, he distributed Peeps, the marshmallow chicks, to students, telling them to keep them safe for three days.

Warwak took the returned Peeps and put them into an in-school art display showing what people do to animals. Some were in cages, some between slices of bread. A few had their heads mounted like trophies and some were mashed on the grilles of toy trucks.

The art was up for two days before school officials told Warwak to remove it.

Warwak also got into a dispute over the "Got Milk" posters in the school cafeteria. He believes dairy products are harmful, causing osteoporosis and obesity.

The final straw may have been Warwak distributing copies of "The Food Revolution," a book promoting health benefits of veganism, to several eighth-graders and to school officials.

The principal reportedly sent Warwak a memo saying, in part: "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."

Warwak's dispute with the school district has spilled out over the media, and he's receiving support from national animal rights groups and vegans. He said he expects to be fired soon.

Fox River Grove Superintendent Jacqueline Krause said she could not comment on what is a personnel issue.

Warwak said he intends to keep teaching, but now he will take a message about peace, both for humans and animals.

"Money's not an issue," Warwak said. "There are bigger issues."

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