A Texas teacher was placed on leave after parents complained about the posters in her virtual classroom “radicalizing” students
Taylor Lifka, an advanced English teacher Roma High School in Texas, isn’t able to meet with her students in person this semester, like so many other teachers, because of the coronavirus pandemic. So she spent the days and weeks leading up to the start of classes decorating a virtual classroom, including a collection of posters like the ones she would have had in a physical classroom. One read “Black Lives Matter,” another contained a rainbow flag, and one had a Spanish phrase calling for solidarity between white and brown people. On her virtual chalkboard, Lifka asked students to type their names and preferred pronouns in the chat box. Then, with her virtual classroom ready to go, she proudly took a screenshot to share on social media.
Then, on Sunday, the day before classes were scheduled to start, Lifka was contacted by a member of the school’s administration, who asked her to take the posters down. When she refused, she was placed on paid leave.
“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,” the teacher told the Texas Tribune.
Roma school officials told news outlets that they had numerous complaints about the BLM and LGBTQ+ posters from parents who saw the screenshot. But it appears what actually happened is Lifka’s photo was shared in several pro-President Donald Trump Facebook groups and amplified by Marian Knowlton, a republican running for a Texas house seat. In since-deleted social media posts, Knowlton said the teacher was “radicalizing” students with “leftist indoctrination.”
Ultimately, Lifka was told she could resume her job as a teacher on Tuesday this week, and that the posters could stay up as long as they did “not come to overly disrupt or detract from the educational process or the learning environment.” That’s after a petition started circulating online asking for her to be reinstated, and the Roma High School Student Council put its full support behind their English teacher. But Lifka said she would refuse to go back to the school unless officials committed to real change and supported “anti-racist policies and tolerance in our classrooms.”
She added, “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?”
“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,” she tells NBC News. “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.”