Texas High School Reverses Course After Putting Teacher on Leave for Rainbow Flag, BLM Virtual Posters

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Sunday August 30, 2020

A screen shot of Taylor Lifka's online classroom space
A screen shot of Taylor Lifka's online classroom space  (Source:Change.org)

The inclusion of a rainbow flag-themed poster, a Black Lives Matter poster, and a place where students could list their preferred pronouns in a virtual classroom sparked complaints and a brief suspension for a Texas high school teacher, NCB News reports.

Taylor Lifka, a teacher at Roma High School in Roma, Texas, was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 23, but reinstated a few days later, on Aug. 26, after officials reviewed the case, according tot he New York Post.

"It was never the intention of the district to indicate anything less than full support for the concepts of equality and student safety," said Carlos Guzman, the superintendent for Roma Independent School District, which includes Roma High School where Lifka teaches.

Roma is a community of about 10,000 people located in Starr County, Texas. Parents weren't the only ones to complain about the virtual posters; a Republican candidate for the Texas State House of Representatives, Marian Knowlton, had taken to Facebook to decry the messages of inclusion that were contained in Lifka's online classroom, reports local newspaper The Monitor.

Knowlton accused Lifka of being part of a "leftist indoctrination" plot to "radicalize" school children, The Monitor reported.

"Our education system has been radicalizing our children for years and it continues to do so, from elementary through higher education," Knowlton posted. "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."

Knowlton subsequently deleted that post, reports the Texas Tribune.

Meantime, an online petition to reinstate Lifka quickly drew more than 33,000 signatures, news sources said. The petition asked signatories to "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 School District sought to strike a reassuring tone, stating, "This action was not intended to reflect any form of punishment or admonishment towards Ms. Lifka but was purely driven by a need to review the circumstances and come to a sound resolution for all persons involved."

Lifka told NBC, "Our nation is in a really divisive state right now, and so when something like this comes out that a teacher is being placed on administrative leave because of parents' concerns over teaching tolerance in the classroom, that's a bigger question."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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