Union teacher dismissed over homosexuality posts reaches deal

UNION, NJ — A former Union High School teacher who posted comments critical of homosexuality on her personal Facebook page in 2011 has agreed to have her teaching certificates suspended for three years.

Jenye Knox, who goes by the nickname “Viki,” posted comments that condemned a school display promoting tolerance during LGBT History Month. In an exchange between commenters on her post, Knox reportedly called homosexuality a “sin” that “breeds like cancer.”
Knox was a special education teacher, an ordained minister and the faculty adviser of an after school Bible study club. She was suspended from her teaching job and later resigned and filed a federal lawsuit against school officials.

Knox alleged that school officials violated her freedom of speech and religion rights. Her suit claimed she resigned because her health, “deteriorated to the point where she could not (sic) longer work from the stress of the intimidation, harassment and emotional distress.”

The school filed charges against Knox to revoke her tenure, which she appealed to the state Office of Administrative Law. She then proposed to the state Board of Examiners to have her elementary, nursery and handicapped education certificates suspended for three years, according to the agency’s decision last month. The board accepted that proposal.

Knox’s lawyer, Demetrios Stratis, did not return calls seeking comment. The current superintendent, school board president and vice president also did not return emails seeking comment.

Knox’s lawsuit against the Union Board of Education, former superintendent and other officials was settled, according to court records. Knox could not be reached for comment.

Knox worked as a teacher in the district for about 11 years before her Facebook posts caught officials’ attention. The Star-Ledger reported that her post about the LGBT History Month display read: “It’s still there. I’m pitching a fit.”

Others commented on her post, eventually leading Knox to respond that homosexuality was a “perverted spirit,” the newspaper reported.
“Why parade your unnatural immoral behaviors before the rest of us?” Knox’s post reportedly said. “I do not have to tolerate anything others wish to do. I do have to love and speak and do what’s right!”

Knox, who is African-American, also said she was “the target of many racist comments” in the Facebook thread, according to the lawsuit. She claimed she was removed from her classroom in front of students and other teachers so school officials could speak to her about her posts.

“While speaking critically of [Knox’s] religious beliefs and her freedom of expression, at no point did any of these individuals express their objection to the racist comments and threats that had been made against [Knox] n the same Facebook posts,” her lawsuit read. “Rather they had the same objective as those who made the racist comments: to silence Viki’s religious views on a matter of public concern.”

The school board in 2011 allegedly criticized Knox’s religious beliefs during a public meeting, according to her suit.
Knox resigned in 2012 after she was suspended without pay and learned that tenure charges would be filed against her. Her resignation stated that the administration had left her “no alternative but to resign my position as a tenured teaching staff member as, in truth, my health and well-being require that I do so,” according to her lawsuit.