New Jersey High School Teacher Posts Anti-Gay Entry on Facebook

The teacher, Viki Knox, posted a photo of a display from the school, Union High School in Union Township, on her personal Facebook page last week. It included photos of Virginia Woolf, Harvey Milk and Neil Patrick Harris. When a friend asked if the school had really put it up, Ms. Knox wrote that it had, and “I’m pitching a fit!”

In subsequent posts, Ms. Knox, who teaches special education classes, defended her views in lengthy exchanges with other Facebook users, referring at times to God and her Christian beliefs. A copy of the comments was provided to The New York Times; her Facebook page was removed from public view. News of Ms. Knox’s comments was first reported on Thursday morning by The Star-Ledger in Newark.

“The district is taking the matter very seriously,” said Union’s superintendent of schools, Patrick Martin. “We are running a thorough investigation. We will take all appropriate actions.”

Dr. Martin declined to comment further on the investigation, or Ms. Knox’s background, citing laws that protect the privacy of public employees.

The state’s teacher database showed that Ms. Knox had 12 years of experience in the district and that she earned $72,109 in 2010. Some residents and parents said that she also advised a student prayer group, and that, until now, she had not been involved in any controversies.

Ms. Knox did not respond to messages left at the school.

In her Facebook posts, Ms. Knox wrote that while she had friends and loved ones who were gay, she believed that the way they lived was “against the nature and character of God” and that the high school was “not the setting to promote, encourage, support and foster homosexuality.”

Edward Barocas, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey, said in a statement, “Although we do not agree with the sentiments expressed on Ms. Knox’s personal Facebook page, her beliefs and comments are protected by the First Amendment.”

But Mr. Barocas added, “Because her postings raised questions about her conduct within school, the school district can and should investigate whether she is performing her job in accordance with school policies and the state’s Law Against Discrimination.”

Members of Garden State Equality, a statewide civil rights organization that advocates gay rights, sent hundreds of e-mails and made phone calls to the district on Thursday demanding that Ms. Knox be dismissed because of her comments.

Steven Goldstein, chairman of the group, said, “If these Facebook posts are from Ms. Knox, she should not be teaching our children in public schools.”

John Paragano, a lawyer and former member of the Union Township Committee, said he had been offended by Ms. Knox’s comments, and questioned her ability to enforce the state’s tough new anti-bullying law.

“Teachers are at the forefront of that, enforcing that,” Mr. Paragano said. “My concern is that if this teacher has these feelings, is she going to call out the bullying of a gay, lesbian and transgender person?”


Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/14/nyregion/teachers-facebook-posts-against-homosexuality-are-questioned.html

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