TAMPA, Fla. – Hillsborough County officials are investigating a high school teacher over allegations she forced students to remove Christian cross necklaces and regularly promotes her LGBT political agenda in class.
The investigation stems from a letter from the nonprofit Liberty Counsel to the Hillsborough County School District regarding lesbian teacher Lora Jane Riedas, who teaches math at Riverview High School, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
The religious freedom group alleges Riedas banned students from wearing Christian jewelry in class – calling them “gang symbols” – and forces students to display LGBT Pride rainbow stickers on their notebooks.
“The bullying behavior of Lora Jane Riedas is outrageous and unconstitutional,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “A teacher cannot ban students from wearing cross necklaces when other students are permitted to wear secular jewelry. Nor can teachers retaliate against students who refuse to display rainbow stickers on their books to promote an LGBT political agenda. The classroom is for learning, not promoting the LGBT agenda.”
According to a Liberty Counsel statement:
Riedas’ classroom décor blatantly promotes a pro-LGBT agenda. Riedas retweeted, apparently during the school day, “favorite queer web series for kids” from “huffpostqueer” stating: “Here’s how to talk to kids about what it means to be an LGBTQ ally.” She is part of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) Leadership Institute.
Riedas has prohibited at least three students from wearing Christian cross necklaces in her classroom, claiming they are “gang symbols.” One of the crosses, a tiny crucifix worn by Liberty Counsel’s ninth grade client, is less than one inch long. Riedas demanded the student stop wearing her cross necklace and singled her out for several false “misbehavior” allegations after the student removed the LGBT rainbow sticker from her class notebook. Riedas’ lesbian partner, who is also a teacher at Riverview, dressed as a nun for school spirit week, complete with a “cross necklace” made of skulls. She tweeted she has “a bad habit” and the point is to be “creepy.”
In the letter to Hillsborough superintendent Jeff Eakins, Liberty Council contends “Ms. Riedas clearly seeks opportunities to engage in GLSEN-directed classroom activism, which has called on teachers to use its ‘Educator Guide’ to promote GLSEN’s views about homosexuality and gender confusion on ‘Day of Silence,’ and to do so this Friday, April 21, 2017.”
The teacher’s alleged bias and political activism violates district policies and state law, Staver wrote.
“School officials have no business in intentionally interfering with parent-approved religious jewelry, or in promoting their pet political ideologies during instructional time to a captive audience,” he wrote to Eakins. “The Hillsborough County School District is hereby on notice that any further violations of student rights in this fashion will be viewed by Liberty Counsel as sufficient to support a federal lawsuit for civil rights violations.”
District spokeswoman Tanya Arja confirmed to the Times that the district received the letter, and said Riverview High School’s principal will begin an investigation into the allegations.
“However, the principal says she has not received a complaint from any student or parent regarding any claims made in the Liberty Council document regarding this teacher,” Arja said.