Maggie? Maggie Gallagher? Are you there dear? I’ve just found your new spokeswhore.
First a little info on Viki, courtesy of her Facebook page:
UNION TOWNSHIP — School officials in Union Township are investigating allegations that a teacher at Union High School posted comments on her Facebook site criticizing a school display recognizing Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender History Month and calling homosexuality “perverted.”
On Saturday, a local attorney who said he had initially been contacted by a parent, wrote to the district calling for the teacher’s dismissal.
The lawyer, John Paragano, a former township councilman, provided the district with what he said was a copy of the Facebook thread that included the offending remarks.
A copy was also provided to The Star-Ledger, in which the teacher, Viki Knox, allegedly referred to homosexuality as, “a perverted spirit that has existed from the beginning of creation,” and a “sin” that “breeds like cancer.”
“Hateful public comments from a teacher cannot be tolerated,” wrote Paragano, also a former Union Township Municipal Court judge. “She has a right to say it. But she does not have a right to keep her job after saying it.”
Union Chief School Administrator Patrick Martin said the district is investigating the incident.
Knox, 49, of Union Township, is also the faculty adviser to the high school’s student prayer group, The Seekers Fellowship, the local chapter of a nationwide organization.
Knox did not respond to requests for comment. But two other people who wrote comments on the thread said Paragano’s copy was authentic.
Township resident Judy Amorosa challenged Knox directly on Facebook, writing “What kind of a Christian are you? God made each and every one of us — gay, straight, black, white, Christian, Jew, blond, brunette — and we should all love each other.”
The case raises broader questions about rights of teachers to speak freely in the age of social media.
It has also prompted gay rights advocates to question the ability of teachers who express such views to enforce New Jersey’s new anti-bullying law, adopted last spring in the wake of the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who killed himself after learning he had been watched, via webcam, having sex with another man.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey released a statement defending Knox’s First Amendment right to make the comments.
“Although we do not agree with the sentiments expressed on Ms. Knox’s personal Facebook page, her comments are protected by the First Amendment,” stated Ed Barocas, the group’s legal director. “The ACLU believes that the response to offensive speech is not the restriction of speech, but more speech.”
Barocas added, “The school has the right to investigate whether she is performing her job in accordance with school policies and the state’s Law Against Discrimination.”
But Garden State Equality, a gay rights group, joined the lawyer Paragano in calling for the teacher’s dismissal.
“Teachers are supposed to be role models for our children, not hatemongers,” said Steven Goldstein, who chairs the group. “I don’t see how this teacher could possibly be effective in implementing the state’s new anti-bullying law, designed precisely to teach children that bullying, including cyber-bullying, is unacceptable.”
By Steve Strunsky and Jeanette Rundquist/The Star-Ledger