School Board Meeting Packed Over Teacher’s Facebook Comments
Tempers flared outside Union Township High School where a teacher was the subject of a gay rights protest after she allegedly posted anti-gay remarks on her Facebook page.
The issue has drawn nationwide attention with more than 75,000 people signing a petition by the Human Rights Campaign of Washington, DC urging the school board to take immediate action against Vicki Knox.
The controversy began last week when Knox posted remarks critical of a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender History Month display inside the school.
Over 300 people, both supporters and critics of Knox, yelled competing chants across the lawn at one another for over an hour Tuesday night.
Supporters called it first amendment rights, carrying signs that read "Don't Bully Vicki" and screaming "freedom of speech."
"They are doing the same thing to her as they preach about not doing to others, they are bullying" said one woman.
"Because she expressed her mind her job is on the line, that's an infringement on her first amendment rights and freedom of speech."
A parent of a Union Township teen said she didn't think it was appropriate to be teaching about sexual preference in the classroom. "That is a topic of conversation for parents in the home, not something I want my son or daughter learning about in school."
Video by Dino Flammia
Critics called Knox's comments offensive, many carrying signs that read, "No Hate In Our State."
Garden State Equality, a gay rights advocacy group, questioned her ability to enforce the state's new school anti-bullying law, intended to protect LGBT students and others vulnerable to harassment.
"She repeatedly envoked her being a teacher when she said being gay is a cancer and a sin. She crossed the line and she needs to go" said Stephen Goldstein, Chair of Garden State Equality.
A mom from Tototwa who attended the rally with her gay son argued that Knox had no right to publicly post negative comments about homosexuality on her page in her official role as a teacher. "If she gets away with this without any consequences, what are we saying to our youth, that this is okay?"
A South Orange man said this type of speech leads to more bullying. "That bullying leads to more suicide and we are trying to prevent more of these children from killing themselves."
At the start of the meeting, School Board President Francis Perkins said the board would not address the issue and it was not appropriate for members to comment on an "ongoing, active investigation."
Knox has been placed on paid administrative leave.