NJ Teacher Criticized for Facebook Comments

The Union High School teacher made negative comments about gay people on her Facebook page.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A New Jersey teacher is at the center of a controversy after making anti-gay comments on her Facebook page. (Published Thursday, Oct 13, 2011)

    Officials in a New Jersey school district are investigating claims that a high school teacher who advises a prayer group posted remarks on her Facebook page that described homosexuality as "perverted'' and said it "breeds like cancer."    

    Attorney John Paragano saw posts by teacher Viki Knox before they were removed and alerted the Union Township school district.
       
    Paragano, who argued the teacher should be dismissed, said Knox objected to a school display celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month. Union Chief School Administrator Patrick Martin told The Associated Press Thursday that the district is investigating.
        
    "We're taking it very seriously and taking all appropriate action," he said. Martin declined to comment on Knox's employment status, citing personnel privacy rules.
        
    A message left Thursday for Knox at the main office of Union High School, where she is a teacher, was not returned.
        
    Paragano said he gave school officials a copy of Knox's Facebook page after he'd been contacted by a parent.
        
    On Knox's Facebook page, she called homosexuality "a perverted spirit that has existed from the beginning of creation" and a "sin" that "breeds like cancer."
    Officials from gay rights groups said that although Knox's alleged anti-gay views are protected by the Constitution, she has a responsibility as a teacher to be a role model for students.
        
    "Educators have a responsibility to nurture their students as they develop into young adults _ and that includes making sure they feel supported and know that there is nothing wrong with being LGBT," Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a prepared statement. "Her alleged public rant is irresponsible and sends a dangerous message to her students."
        
    Garden State Equality issued a statement questioning Knox's ability as a teacher to enforce the state's new anti-bullying law. The law was signed in January and is considered among the toughest in the country for its requirement that schools have anti-bullying policies.
        
    The law was adopted after the suicide last year of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman whose roommate is accused of using a webcam to spy on his intimate encounter with another man.
        
    The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey defended Knox's First Amendment right to make the comments but said the school system also has the right to investigate whether she is performing her job in accordance with school policies and anti-bias laws.
    Some students at Union High School supported the teacher's rich to her opinion.
    "At least she didn't come out and say it in class," said Sirena Smith, a senior. "Being how she put it on Facebook, I don't think it's that big a deal."
    Tashawna Dunmore, a sophomore, added "I don't think it was wrong, because we have freedom of speech."