A Tampa, Florida high school teacher who was accused by an extremist anti-LGBT organization of banning crosses while advocating for gay rights has been cleared of wrongdoing after a school district investigation.
Lora Jane Riedas, who teaches freshman math at Riverview High School and is faculty adviser of Riverview’s Gay Straight Alliance, said she did not allow rosaries, as they are considered gang symbols and not allowed in the school dress code.
The Liberty Counsel, the group that represented Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who made headlines in 2015 after refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. The group alleged that Riedas didn’t let students wear crosses and that her efforts to help LGBT students feel comfortable in her classroom had crossed a line into political activism. It made the others feel “marginalized and excluded, and not full members of the classroom community,”
Liberty Counsel founder Mathew Staver says the messaging goes too far. It’s not just a symbol, he says, but the combination.
It’s the rainbow stickers Riedas is accused of placing on student folders. It’s a poster that says “Ally,” a term for people supportive of their LGBT friends.
The original complaint took issue with posters in the classroom that say “Ally” and “Safe Place.” Principal Danielle Shotwell saw nothing wrong with the posters. Riedas said the terms do not refer specifically to gay and transgender students, but to anyone who fears being bullied
“She’s free to do what she wants to do in her own time outside of that classroom,” Staver said. “She’s free to be a sponsor of a student-initiated, student-led club. But she crosses the line when she brings things into the classroom that pushes her ideas onto the students. You talk about being inclusive. But she’s not including people who do not agree with her.”
Superintendent Jeff Eakins said Monday he is pleased to have ordered a thorough investigation. “We, as a district, have a responsibility to our employees to give them due process,” he said.
“This investigation revealed that we are being respectful to all students. We’re being respectful to our employees in giving them due process. We always have to make sure that we are hearing the whole story.”
“I still have no idea what student is even complaining,” Riedas said. “No one asked to be taken out of my class.” instead the Liberty Counsel began building its case.
Staver also said the fight is not over.
“We’ll be following up with another letter to the school,” he said. “We have other students who have come forth in other classes as well. We’ll likely get that letter out tomorrow, Wednesday the latest.
Last month Mat Staver, The Liberty Counsel and Liberty University were added to a RICO lawsuit over their involvement in the kidnapping of 9 year-old Lisa Miller.