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More Educational Stupidity. Silver Cross Is “Disrespectful.”

(courtesy Liberty Council)

This is a case which is more of a “two-fer” – a activist teacher who is a bully and a school and school district that are completely, totally and utterly ignorant or stupid and most likely both.

The story begins with a student attending Riverview High School in Hillsborough County, FL, made an “egregious” error in a math class taught by one Lora Jane Riedas:

One of our student clients reports that she had just sat down in class, and placed her books on her desk, when Ms. Riedas approached her. Referencing the tiny cross necklace which was around the student’s neck, Ms. Riedas said, “I need you to take your necklace off.” Our client asked “Why?” and Ms. Riedas refused to explain, stating “That’s disrespectful; you have to take it off.”

The cross in question is shown above and measures less than an inch.

The student acquiesced to the Riedas’ ridiculous and unConstitional demand, but when she told her parents, they investigated and found other children who had been subjected Riedes’ bullying by being told to remove religious jewelry. The parents did the smart thing and reached out to the Liberty Counsel for legal representation.

Liberty Counsel took the case and sent a demand letter (seen below) to the Hillsborough School Superintendent, one Jeff Eakins. The letter states the reason the teacher has banned the wearing of religious jewelry:

Ms. Riedas has prohibited at least three children from wearing Christian cross necklaces in her classroom, claiming on occasion that they are “gang symbols.”

This is the type of thinking and reasoning that a teacher has in a high school?

“Gang symbols?”

Of course, the question would be “if they are ‘gang symbols,’ to what ‘gang’ the symbols belong?”

The Supreme Court case in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District is quite clear on this issue:

First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. This has been the unmistakable holding of this Court for almost 50 years.

[…]

The Fourteenth Amendment, as now applied to the States, protects the citizen against the State itself and all of its creatures — Boards of Education not excepted. These have, of course, important, delicate, and highly discretionary functions, but none that they may not perform within the limits of the Bill of Rights. That they are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.

(More case law is cited in the Liberty Counsel demand letter.)

The small cross on a necklace does not interrupt or interfere with the educational process. It is a small expression of faith that the students are allowed to wear under their rights as enumerated in the Constitution.

The idea of freedom of religious expression has another component as well. The government can neither impede or promote a religion. So while it is clear the kids have the right to wear their crosses, the teacher herself cannot make up some bogus reason for impeding the kids’ religious expression.

However, as we said, there is more to this story.

Riedes is a LGBT advocate. One might characterize her as a rabid and boisterous advocate:

Ms. Riedas has further engaged in impermissible LGBT political activism in the classroom, and has indicated her intent to further do so during instructional time. Ms. Riedas is planning to promote GLSEN’s2 “Day of Silence” coercive political activities during instructional time in her classroom on Friday, April 21, 2017.

In addition to being opposed to student religious expression, we understand that Ms. Riedas is the sponsor for the R.G.S.A Gay-Straight Alliance (“GSA”) at Riverview High School, and that her classroom is permanently decorated with LGBT political themes, including a large display on her wall stating “ALLY,” a “Safe Space” poster and door sticker, and assorted other LGBT promotional material, including buttons prominently displayed on her desk, facing students, stating “I Love My LGBT Students” and “PROUD Public Employee.”

These buttons make other students feel marginalized and excluded, and not full members of the classroom community. Moreover, at the beginning of the semester, Ms. Riedas placed LGBT rainbow stickers on students’ classroom folders without their consent, which were there one day when the students arrived. One of our clients reports that after she removed the LGBT sticker, Ms. Riedas’ behavior toward her changed markedly for the worse.

Riedas’ political activities on school time and using school equipment is contrary to the school district’s policies:

3231 – Outside Activities of Instructional Staff

Instructional staff members shall avoid situations in which their personal interests, activities, and associations conflict with the interests of the District. If such situations threaten an instructional staff member’s effectiveness within the school system, the Superintendent and/or School Board shall evaluate the impact of such interest, activity, or association upon the instructional staff member’s responsibilities.

Instructional staff members
A. may not dedicate work time to an outside interest, activity, or association.

B. may not use school property or school time to solicit or accept customers for private enterprises.

C. may not engage in business transactions on behalf of private enterprises in which they profit by virtue of their official position or authority or benefit financially from confidential information that has been obtained or may be obtained by reason of their position or authority;

D. may not campaign on school property during working hours on behalf of any political issue, or candidate for local, State, or National office.
The constitutional right to express political and other opinions as citizens is reserved to all instructional staff members.

E. should refrain from expressions that disrupt the efficient operation of the school and/or interfere with the maintenance of discipline by school officials.

The attachment to the Liberty Counsel’s letter shows what the cross looks like (seen above,) Riedas’ classroom, her desk and tweets advocating for political issues on school time.

The interesting thing is that some of her tweets for political purposes were made on the official Hillsborough School District Twitter feed. She was violating the district’s policies right in front of the school district and no one thought to say “this is wrong.” No one thought to tell her to stop. Instead, she was allowed to continue to tweet while at the same time harassing kids and trying to shove her anti-religious and political beliefs down their throats.

This isn’t even a close call.

Riedas made unConstitutional demands of students. She violated school and district policies.

Instead of doing the right and legal thing, the School District opened an “investigation.”

Tanya Arja, a spokeswoman for the school district, said Eakins had received the letter and contacted Riverview High’s principal to begin an investigation.

“However, the principal says she has not received a complaint from any student or parent regarding any claims made in the Liberty Counsel document regarding this teacher,” Arja said.

How stupid do you have to be to not even read your own Twitter feed to see the violations of the district policies? How stupid do you have to be to simply walk in Riedas’ classroom and see the violations of district policies?

How stupid is the administration of the school and the school district not to notice these things? Is it just stupidity or willful ignorance?

As for “not knowing,” Riedas has a history of taking out her aggression on kids who disagree with her. What child is going to make a complaint against her?

What child is going to be familiar with the law enough to stand up to this bully and tell her ‘No?” Isn’t that the job of the school and the school district? To protect kids from bullies and religious bigots like Riedas?

The school district held a regular meeting on April 25th and this was not discussed even though Liberty Counsel had sent a copy of the demand letter to each School Board member.

In our opinion, that either makes the School Board members complicit in the illegal actions of the teacher, or at the very least cowards for failing to address them.

We repeat our claim that you have to be pretty well educated to be that stupid – and that much of an ignorant coward – in order for this type of “education” to continue in our public schools.

PS. We went looking for media stories on this issue and can’t find many. Only the cited Tampa Bay Times could be considered within the mainstream media. The rest of the coverage is being provided by bloggers – people like us. That should tall you something.





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