Art teacher Annella Krom has been fired from Chandler Unified School District after discriminating against a transgender student and bringing a box of Bibles to class.
Krom reportedly discussed her Christian beliefs and anit-gay rhetoric openly and frequently with students in classes at Arizona College Preparatory-Erie.
Among these was the assertion that gay people are "just confused."
A report from staff at the school to the school's governing board called Krom"s conduct "objectionable, disrespectful, and unprofessional." This led to the district terminating her employment earlier this month.
Krom reportedly refused to allow a trans student to do a project about their journey of self discovery because being trans wasn't an appropriate topic for the classroom.
After the student confided in a school counselor, the matter was brought to the principal. The principal then told Krom that there was nothing that made the student's chosen topic inappropriate for the school environment.
When administrators followed up with Krom, she:
"subsequently acknowledged that she rejected the topic because it conflicted with teacher's religious beliefs."
In that email, Krom told administrators that she would not support LGBTQ+ students and won't assist students in creating art that supports their identities.
She then delivered a whopper of an ultimatum.
"Either this topic is the priority or the word of God is."
Arizona College Preparatory-Erie is a public high school, not a private Christian school, so it should be pretty safe to assume that the "word of God" is not a priority within the school.
This makes Krom's decision to give the student zero out of a possible 50 points on the project go against school guidelines. Krom claimed that awarding a higher grade on the project would violate her conscience.
The student then, understandably, asked to be transferred out of Krom's class.
Other students also reported feeling uncomfortable in Krom's class. On student who expressed pro-choice sentiments was given a Bible and told to re-think their morals.
This same student also reported that Krom lowered their grade on an assignment with no explanation after they revealed that they were atheist or agnostic.
Regarding the incident, the district's report says:
"Student reasonably believes the change in her grading was the result of discrimination by teacher."
According to Arizona law, a teacher's credentials can be revoked if that teacher "teaches any sectarian doctrine or conducts any religious exercises in school."
Bringing a box of Bibles to school and telling students to take them home was determined to have met this stipulation of the law.
The district's report also detailed Krom refusing to use the correct name and pronouns for another trans student.
Madelaine Adelman, a professor at Arizona State University and board member for the Phoenix chapter of GLSEN, talked about why it is detrimental to trans students when teachers refuse to use their correct name and pronouns.
"If someone is not calling you by your name, it means they don't see you, they don't acknowledge you, they don't accept you. That you don't belong."
Krom was charged with violating a provision of her contract prohibiting discrimination against coworkers, students or parents based on gender or sexual orientation. This led to Krom being placed on administrative leave on September 11th because the school had grounds to terminate her employment.
She was given a deadline of September 26rh to apply for a hearing to contest the decision but never applied for one, leading to her termination.
Many folks on social media were critical of Krom.
"So, she can't judge a piece of art without agreeing with the artist? She doesn't sound like a very good art teacher to me." -SobinTulll
"The truly disturbing thing here is that this former teacher probably sees herself as the primary victim and being fired as 'persecution' because of her 'faith'." -box_of_pandas
"She has no business pushing her beliefs down anyone's throat. If she wants to teach religion she should go work at a religious school. Heads up to the very brave student who stood up for himself. I hope there are many more." -lma062
"I'm a liberal atheist. If I were an art teacher, I wouldn't grade art based off Christianity, Donald Trump, or transphobia any differently than the rest. That's how teaching works, end of story." -SupaFugDup
Chandler Unified School District is making an effort to make sure their students' needs are truly being met after this debacle.
District spokesman Terry Locke said that they are focusing on helping students overcome barriers to success.
"We have embarked on a multi-year effort to identify students who may be experiencing barriers to their academic success and then removing the barriers. This effort involves establishing a comprehensive and ongoing program to increase awareness, knowledge and understanding."
These efforts toward inclusion are being met with resistance from some schools within the district, while others are happy to do what they can to make all of their students feel welcome and successful at school.
Knowing that school is a safe environment for self expression can be the difference between academic and social success or failure. Students who are focused on hiding who they are out of fear of persecution have little focus left for academic pursuits.
Have you listened to the first season of George Takei's podcast, 'Oh Myyy Pod!'?
In season one we explored the racially charged videos that have taken the internet by storm.
We're hard at work on season two so be sure to subscribe here so you don't miss it when it goes live.
Here's one of our favorite episodes from season one. Enjoy!