"The Township of Union Public School system is geared to address the multipurpose needs of a diverse population"- so states the township on it's very own public website. (http://www.twpunionschools.org/Default.htm)
In addition, part of the NJEA's mission statement claims the association works diligently to "...promote a quality system of public education for all students." (http://www.njea.org/about/who-we-are/mission)
That "quality system of public education for all students" was compromised recently when a Union High School teacher, Ms. Knox, posted hateful, incendiary comments regarding the rights of GLBT students.
Earlier this month, students at Union High School erected a display in commemoration of GLBT History Month. Ms. Knox, who teaches at UHS and also advises the school's prayer group, posted to her Facebook account that homosexuality is "a perverted spirit that has existed from the beginning of creation," and a "sin" that "breeds like cancer", in addition to "Why parade your unnatural, immoral behaviors before the rest of us?". (http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/10/union_township_school_official.html)
How ever the Union Public School District aims to meet the "multipurpose needs of a diverse population", this is NOT it. When a teacher or administrator incites violence and bullying against students, it is not acceptable by any means.
I am a Union High School alumnus who experienced both great times with friends, and harassment over my perceived sexual orientation, during my four years there. I was not the only individual, and while I cannot comment on specifics in protection of a few of my friends who experienced far worse, I am aware that the Union Public School District, as well as the high school's administrators and even some teachers, largely practice a "sweep it under the carpet" mentality when it comes to any report of GLBT harassment, especially claims that could lead to a more legally involved resolution. It was due to such harassment, and the district's lack of protection of GLBT students, that I did not feel comfortable, nor safe, coming out in high school. When I did come out, I vowed to never let myself nor any other person, regardless of age, feel scared that they couldn't be the person whom they were born to be, whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.
As part of this promise to myself and the promise I've made to my community, I am starting this petition demanding Patrick Martin, Superintendent of Schools, the Union Township School District, and the Union Board of Education to dismiss Ms. Knox from her public position as a state paid teacher in NJ for inciting hatred towards a group of students. In addition, I petition the New Jersey Education Association (the NJEA) to do what is right and stand up for the rights of every GLBT student in the state who suffers harassment, hatred, and bullying when a teacher espouses such hatred and incites bullying with the words they use.
Everyone has a right to their own opinion, and everyone is protected by their Right to Free Speech; however, when one holds a public sector job, he/she places him or herself in a position where they can and will be held accountable for their deeds and for what they say, most especially when said individual is charged with teaching our youth, and supporting them REGARDLESS of their race, ethnicity, gender, orientation and religious background. Ms. Knox has a right to believe in what she believes in, but she DOES NOT HAVE THE RIGHT to incite hatred, bullying, or violence towards students.
Quite simply, since Ms. Knox has demonstrated that she cannot obviously teach or advise students in an unbiased, non-prejudiced, supportive matter and without indoctrinating her own religious beliefs to endorse her behavior, she SHOULD NOT be allowed to maintain her public sector position which charges her to safeguard students, not incite or endorse violence of any form towards them for any reason.
I urge you to help me stand up for what is right, for students nationwide, so that NOT ONE MORE student, whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, feels scared to be the wonderful person they were born to be...no matter WHO they were born to be.