Republicans attacked advanced English teacher Taylor Lifka's virtual posters, so she was placed on leave. Now, she refuses to go back until the school's racism is addressed.
Taylor Lifka is an advanced English teacher at the Roma High School in Texas. Like so many other educators this year, she is unable to meet her students. Instead, she will be holding all her classes online. With this in mind, she spent the several weeks leading up to her online classes decorating her "virtual classroom." As a fierce believer in building solidarity with her students, the walls of her virtual classroom featured Black Lives Matter posters as well as posters in support of the LGBTQ+ community. When a set of parents saw the classroom, however, they filed several complaints. Lifka has since been placed on leave.
In addition to the "radical" posters, the teacher asked her students to fill out their names and pronouns through her virtual chalkboard. She even shared her carefully thought out classroom decor by taking a screenshot and posting it on social media. Then, on Sunday, only a day before classes were scheduled to start, she was contacted by a member of her school’s administration. They informed Lifka that she would have to take her virtual posters down. Of course, she refused to do so. This is when she was placed on paid leave. The teacher said in an interview with The Texas Tribune, "My assistant principal told me, ‘Please take the posters down.’ I guess once that happened, I knew that it might be a rocky road, but considering being put on leave? I never really thought that that was going to be their first step."
Despite what many will tell you, students do not show up if they do not feel seen - same as with adults. Not only is it a moral imperative to make sure ALL students feel seen, heard, and included, it's also a teacher's job. Taylor Lifka was/is doing her job. https://t.co/OflgTCIFrz— Jennifer S. Dean (@JenSDean) August 27, 2020
According to the Roma High School, they received numerous complaints from several parents about Lifka's posters. Allegedly, what had actually taken place, was that the teacher's screenshot of her virtual classroom was shared in numerous pro-President Donald Trump Facebook groups. It was then amplified by Marian Knowlton, a Republican presently running for a Texas House seat. Knowlton claimed that she was “radicalizing” her students with "leftist indoctrination" in a handful of social media posts that have since been deleted. When news about Lifka's experience went viral, a petition to reinstate her began circulating online. The Roma High School Student Council also expressed its full support of Lifka.
NEW: A Texas school district backtracked after placing English teacher Taylor Lifka on leave over the posters in her virtual classroom. https://t.co/3OmArXOaOf— NBC Out (@NBCOUT) August 27, 2020
Ultimately, she was allowed to return to teaching as long as her so-called "radical" posters did not "come to overly disrupt or detract from the educational process or the learning environment." However, the teacher said she would refuse to go back to teaching unless school officials committed to real change and supported "anti-racist policies and tolerance" in their classrooms, virtual ones too. "If I just reenter the classroom without any further discussion or action of how is this going to change in our community, then what was all this for?" she asked. "If you’re not ready today, you’re not ready tomorrow, and if you’re not ready tomorrow you’re not going to be ready five years from now. If I’m not going to say something now, then when am I going to say something? It’s been clear that people have a lot of things to say."
Messages of support from teachers matter to LGBTQ+ youth. They lead to fewer absences, increased feelings of safety, and better academic outcomes. Teachers like Taylor Lifka are making a big difference to the young people in their classrooms. https://t.co/wTiPK7VoTT— Patrick Comerford (@reconfiguredpat) August 27, 2020