A Texas teacher who adorned her virtual classroom with posters professing support for Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ lifestyle is now on paid leave after drawing fierce criticism online.
Officials with the Roma Independent School District have not identified the teacher, but confirmed Tuesday an investigation is underway after a screenshot of her online classroom at Roma High School was posted to Facebook.
Marian Knowlton, a candidate for Texas House District 31, told The Monitor she posted the image after receiving it from a concerned educator, and folks online identified the teacher as ninth grade English teacher Taylor Lifka.
“This is from a public school in one of the counties in House District 31!” Knowlton wrote on Facebook. “Our education system has been radicalizing our children for years and it continues to do so, from elementary through higher education. This is not an isolated occurrence, it is a national pattern. A concerted effort to teach children what to think, not how to think. Leftist indoctrination. Parents, I urge you to take a look at your child’s classroom, virtual or onsite.”
The virtual classroom includes images of protests, a LGBTQ banner that assures students it’s a “diverse, inclusive, accepting, welcoming safe space for everyone,” and other social justice imagery.
“Put your name and preferred pronouns in the chat box and choose an emotion, from the wheel on the bookshelf, to describe how you feel today!” the message greeting students read.
Knowlton’s post ignited a firestorm on Facebook, with folks both outraged and supportive of the teacher’s “inclusive” learning environment.
Numerous folks also contacted the school district to complain.
“After reviewing the complaints, the District is working closely with the teacher to find a resolution that will ensure all parties involved reach an outcome that best benefits the expectations of our parents and needs of our students. The teacher is not being reprimanded in any way for her work or decisions,” RISD officials wrote in a prepared statement Tuesday.
The move sparked a backlash from local social justice warriors, who launched a Change.org petition to demand officials reinstate Lifka to the classroom immediately.
“Please sign this petition to let the school district know that inclusivity and acceptance are not taboo ideas that deserve censorship; that high school students can and should be allowed to discuss the realities of the world instead of being sheltered inside a sanitized bubble; and that by reprimanding the teacher for trying to create a safe space for her students, the school is not being neutral, but is actively taking a stance that is antithetical to justice,” the petition reads.
The petition to “Remove RISD teacher from Administrative Leave” garnered nearly 18,000 signatures in two days, well on its way to a goal of 25,000, though it’s unclear how many of the signatures are from locals and how many are from leftist activists.
Former RISD teacher Joseph Cloward defended his colleague’s choice of classroom decorations in a letter to district officials that alleged the content has nothing to do with politics.
“I think what I was asking for is for the district to be really, really clear about whether or not it intends to be a safe and inclusive space for all students, particularly for Black students, for female students, for LGBT students,” he said. “I think all that’s come across right now is that teachers that are supportive of those students will be punished if they are outspoken in their support of those students, and I think that’s the wrong message for the district to be sending.”
“I don’t think that the messages in the pictures on social media are ones that have to be explicitly political in a partisan sense, they seem to be pretty typical ways to let students know that they are in a space where they will be welcomed and should feel safe regardless of their race or gender or sexual orientation,” Cloward said.
Meanwhile, Knowlton and others are pointing out that while Lifka’s decorations are welcoming to LGBTQ and black students, others are left out.
“If this is about inclusivity, why don’t we see anything about Judeao-Christian values on it, why don’t we see anything about the Bible on it, why don’t we see the other side?” she said Tuesday. “We only see one point of view on here, and I didn’t mention that at all, but that’s where the thread started to go.”
Bottom line, Knowlton said: “I think that parents need to know what their children are looking at, what they’re hearing in the classroom,” she said.