Monday, April 24, 2017

Hate group goes after lesbian teacher - UPDATED

Updated April 24 with initial reaction from the school district.

Liberty Counsel has sent a threatening letter (via email) to Jeff Eakins, Superintendent of the Hillsborough County Public Schools. Hillsborough County (population 1.2 million) includes Tampa, Florida. This is a county that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a margin of 52% to 45%. I have notified the responsible parties that Liberty Counsel is an anti-LGBT hate group.

At issue is math teacher, Lora Jane Riedas, who is gay. In Liberty Counsel's press release they provide this photo identified only as Riedas' partner and also a teacher. She is dressed as a nun for Halloween. I have done that myself. I stepped outside an event at the Waldorf to smoke a cigar and passersby were taking my picture. I then realized the absurdity of a nun smoking a fat cigar. But I digress. Riedas' partner is not smoking a cigar and the intent of the picture is to shame Riedas by association. It's a cheap shot but this is Liberty Counsel.

The unnamed alleged partner of the teacher in question
in Halloween costume
According to the letter, the teacher has banned students from wearing crosses. I have my doubts unless this is school policy. It would not surprise me if the three children making the allegation did so in concert and as busy little bigots. If she did ask students to remove crosses that is probably wrong and simply corrected.

It is clear, however, that the real problem is the allegation that the teacher is gay in conjunction with GLSEN's Day of Silence. The emphasis in the following is as written:
Ms. Riedas has further engaged in impermissible LGBT political activism in the classroom, and has indicated her intent to further do so during instructional time. Ms. Riedas is planning to promote GLSEN’s “Day of Silence” coercive political activities during instructional time in her classroom on Friday, April 21, 2017.
I do not know what planning to promote means. However, anti-bullying discussions are certainly not impermissible. Suggesting that this is coercive is just hate group nonsense.
In addition to being opposed to student religious expression, we understand that Ms. Riedas is the sponsor for the R.G.S.A Gay-Straight Alliance (“GSA”) at Riverview High School, and that her classroom is permanently decorated with LGBT political themes, including a large display on her wall stating “ALLY,” a “Safe Space” poster and door sticker, and assorted other LGBT promotional material, including buttons prominently displayedher desk, facing students, stating “I Love My LGBT Students” and “PROUD Public Employee.” These buttons make other students feel marginalized and excluded, and not full membersthe classroom community. Moreover, at the beginning of the semester, Ms. Riedas placed LGBT rainbow stickers on students’ classroom folders without their consent, which were there one day when the students arrived. One of our clients reports that after she removed the LGBT sticker, Ms. Riedas’ behavior toward her changed markedly for the worse.
That is all too damned bad. There is nothing wrong with any of that and working for tolerance is not a political activity no matter how much the bigots at Liberty Counsel would suggest otherwise.
Ms. Riedas’ clearly seeks opportunities to engage in GLSEN-directed classroom activism, which has called on teachers to use its “Educator Guide” 3 to promote GLSEN’s views about homosexuality and gender confusion on “Day of Silence,” and to do so this Friday, April 21, 2017.

GLSEN’s guide encourages teachers to require students to engage in numerous forms of coercive, group, political activism, from grades K-12, regardless of parent desiresstudent religious beliefs, with no opt-out from classroom coercion. Students can either “go along to get along,” or risk being “outed” as disagreeing with the teacher and GLSEN’s LGBT viewpoint. Among other things, GLSEN tells teachers to be “creative” with your “assignments and activities and methods of participation” to coerce students to engage in divisive political activism during instructional time, including the following:
Again, there is nothing wrong with any of that. Portraying anti-bullying as coercive is just moronic.
On her personal Twitter, Ms. Riedas retweeted GLSEN’s “guide” at 10:12 AM Wednesday, April 5, 2017. She “liked” the same GLSEN “guide” on GLSEN TampaBay’s Facebook at 1:15 PM later that same day. On Thursday, April 6, she tweeted her wholehearted agreement (“This.”) with the idea of “Creating Gender Inclusive Schools,” which seeks to promote gender confusion among young people, with the idea that there are more than two genders, male and female. On Friday, April 7, at 8:55 AM, Ms. Riedas retweeted “favorite queer web series for kids” from “huffpostqueer” stating “Here’s how to talk kids about what it means to be an LGBTQ ally,” again, apparently during school time.

Tweeting on Twitter and otherwise encouraging fellow teachers to use GLSEN’s political activism “guide” during the school day, and join her in creating a politically-charged classroom environment is not part of Ms. Riedas’ education duties, and violates District policy. “It is the policy of the Board that students, staff members, and District facilities not used for promoting the interests of any non school agency or organization, public private, without the approval of the Superintendent.” (Emphasis added). See Policy 9700 - Relationships with Special Interest Groups. GLSEN is clearly a nonschool agency, and Ms. Riedas is promoting its interests in her official capacity, and within her classroom.
Riedas' re-tweets have little or no relevance to activities in the classroom and no relevance to Policy 9700. Her crime is TWG (teaching-while-gay).
The totality of Ms. Riedas’ behavior is very concerning: banning cross necklaces on the one hand, while promoting wholesale LGBT political activism on the other. By retweeting GLSEN’s “guide” for classroom activism, Ms. Riedas is encouraging other teachers to engage in what she herself appears to be preparing to do on Friday, April 21: classroom activism during instructional time, requiring students who do not agree with “Day of Silence” to participate in various forced activities entirely unrelated to math class, and rewarding students who participate in the political activity she herself favors.
Could these idiots possibly look for absurd? All this based on a re-tweet … and a whole lot of projection. Give me a fucking break.

They manage to look even more extreme:
Ms. Riedas has violated the Code of Ethics of the Education Profession of Florida, State Board of Education Rule 6B-1.006, FAC (3) Obligation to the student, and (4) Obligation to the public, as well as the District’s mirror policy, Policy 3210, Standards of Ethical Conduct. State BOE Rule 6B-1.006 (3) requires that a teacher shall not (d) “intentionally suppress or distort subject matter;” (e) “intentionally expose a student to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement;” (f) “intentionally violate or deny a student’s legal rights; (g) “harass or discriminate against any student on the basis of . . . religion, sex, . . .beliefs . . . or social and family background;” or (h) “exploit a relationship with a student for personal gain or advantage.”
She hasn't done any of that. This is all supposition. This all goes on and on, page after page with legal cites that are not on point. They finally get to their point:
In order to prevent liability for civil rights violations, please confirm in writing close of business April 20, 2017, that the District will 1) prohibit Ms. Riedas from interfering with student religious expression, by banning cross necklaces, or otherwise appropriate clothing or jewelry containing religious references or symbols; 2) prohibit Ms. Riedas from promoting LGBT political activism during instructional time on April 21, or at any other time, using any of the attached ideas in GLSEN’s “guide;” 3) require Ms. Riedas to remove partisan political LGBT materials from her classroom, and remove all unrequested LGBT stickers from each student’s notebook; and 4) replace her as sponsor of GSA, and appoint a teacher of the District’s choice who can be trusted to be present at non-school-sponsored student clubs like GSA in a supervisory, not activist, capacity.

If we do not receive the requested response, Liberty Counsel will take further action to prevent irreparable harm to the rights of our clients. If a federal lawsuit for civil rights violations becomes necessary to vindicate the parental and student rights, it may include any appropriate parties in their individual, as well as official, capacities.
If the school superintendent is smart he simply ignored the whole thing. Any response to irresponsible people is going to be problematic. I'll send some email and see if I can find out.

The letter is signed by Mary E. McAlister and Richard Mast, Jr. I can safely presume that neither of these nitwits will set the legal world on fire.

Update — April 24: This matter is apparently still under investigation but the school district has not responded to Liberty Counsel. The reason is that the school principal has not received any complaints from students or parents. Common sense dictates that one would try to amicably resolve any issue with local authorities before going to a lawyer. Not having responded by the 21st, this matter is probably a dead issue. At its core this was about the Day of Silence.

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