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NJ school board files tenure charges against teacher who made anti-gay Facebook posts

NJ school board files tenure charges against teacher who made anti-gay Facebook posts

UNION TOWNSHIP, N.J — The school board of Union Township, New Jersey has filed tenure charges against Viki Knox, the high school English teacher whose anti-gay remarks on Facebook raised a firestorm over her free speech rights and her role as a public school teacher.

Viki Knox

The board formally filed the charges against Knox in late December, a step that begins the lengthy and costly process to terminate her employment, school board president Ray Perkins said. He could not comment on the findings of the district’s three-month investigation of Knox’s conduct.

“Every student, no matter what race, creed color or sexual orientation ought to be able to come to school and feel comfortable in a learning environment that’s welcoming and nurturing,” Perkins said.

In her October 2011 Facebook post, sparked by a school bulletin board observing LGBT History Month, Knox described gay people as “perverted spirits” whose sin “breeds like cancer.”

“Why parade your unnatural immoral behaviors before the rest of us?” Knox wrote, “I DO NOT HAVE TO TOLERATE ANYTHING OTHERS WISH TO DO. I DO HAVE TO LOVE AND SPEAK AND DO WHAT’S RIGHT!”

The inflammatory thread was forwarded to attorney John Paragano, a former Union Township councilman and municipal judge who urged in a letter to Chief School Administrator Patrick Martin, that Knox be dismissed.

“Hateful public comments from a teacher cannot be tolerated,” wrote Paragano. “She has a right to say it. But she does not have a right to keep her job after saying it.”

Knox, 49, a teacher at Union High School, is also the faculty adviser to the high school’s student prayer group, The Seekers Fellowship, the local chapter of a nationwide organization.

According to state records, Knox has taught for at least 20 years, including 10 in the Union district, and earns $70,688 a year, reported the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

A spokeswoman with the Office of Administrative Law said full details of the charges are not yet available, but that the tenure charges were based on “unbecoming conduct.”

LGBT advocacy group, Garden State Equality, has also called for Knox’ dismissal, and questioned her ability as a teacher to enforce the state’s anti-bullying law. The law was signed in January 2011 and is considered among the toughest in the country for its requirement that schools have anti-bullying policies.

“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,” said Steven Goldstein, Chairman of Garden State Equality.

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