Though the United States is making progress toward inclusivity, it's important to remember how there are many pockets across the nation that still allow for exclusion.
At Covenant Christian School—which receives direct taxpayer funding through the school voucher program—teacher Monica Toro Lisciandro was called into an impromptu meeting shortly before her theatre class earlier this month—and it's infuriating as to why.
In the meeting at the Palm Bay, Florida school, Lisciandro was told an anonymous person "expressed concern" about her sexual orientation. The assistant principal said she was seen outside of school dating a woman, attending a Pride festival and hosting LGBTQ+ community groups in her private art studio.
To these allegations, Lisciandro simply replied:
"Well, it's true."
Lisciandro later reported that she was removed from her part-time teaching position and role as the theatre director, purely based on her sexual orientation.
The Head of the School, Lorne Wenzel, wrote an email to all the musical theatre students' parents in preparation for the transition, but remained very cagey on the "why" of Lisciandro's departure.
"I am sorry to say that for personal reasons, Mrs. Lisciandro is not able to continue teaching our musical theater class. We are aggressively pursuing another teacher to finish the class and (direct) our play, and I will keep you posted."
Though schools cannot actively discriminate against people, not all states are in agreement when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity. And while churches and privately funded religious schools can choose to discriminate for religious reasons, Covenant Christian School accepts secular taxpayer funds.
Lisciandro isn't the first to be let go for "personal reasons" in the Sunshine State, and she unfortunately probably won't be the last.
Lisciandro has confirmed that she feels she legally can do nothing in this situation.
Back in February 2016, the Palm Bay City Council heard a proposal for a human rights ordinance that would protect members of the LGBTQ+ community. It was meant to keep them from being fired and being targeted for other discriminatory actions that they are otherwise not protected from.
The proposal was rejected, on the grounds that it would encourage members of the community to make ridiculous sexual allegations and to perform frivolous acts in the community. The gathering of more than 500 supporters wasn't enough to convince the Council otherwise.
As late as last week, The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed multiple cases relating to discriminatory acts against LGBTQ+ people. In each of these situations, the primary question was whether or not it should continue to be legal to discriminate against someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Unfortunately, there is no Florida statewide or federal law that prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals, in the workplace and otherwise.
The Equality Florida website states:
"This means that, according to state law, it is legal to fire someone, evict them from housing, or deny them service at a restaurant just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer."
In addition to teaching, Lisciandro also owns the Viera Studio for the Performing Arts in Suntree, Florida. There, she and her colleague, Corey Beattie, organized and hosted the Rainbow Project for LGBTQ Allyship. Lisciandro and Beattie organized the group in the hopes of providing young individuals a place to express whoever they are, despite where they may go to school.
Beattie said of Lisciandro's firing:
"It's discrimination. You can say what you want, you say whether it's lawful or not. But we've seen throughout history: Just because it's under law does not mean it's not discrimination. The fact is that Monica hasn't done anything wrong."
Beattie is not alone in viewing this as discrimination, and a solid reason for social change.
Though Lisciandro believes there is little she can legally do to improve her situation, in true teacher form, Lisciandro wants to turn this bitter situation into a teaching opportunity for each of her former students—no matter their sexual orientation.
"It's been a very difficult situation, because my life has been dedicated to children and making them feel seen and heard and loved, no matter who they are. And so to think that something like this could happen to them makes me feel really upset and angry, because they deserve better. So I can't be quiet about it. I can't be silent about it."
Lisciandro clearly is more concerned about the impact this could have on her students and the message that's being sent to them with her being let go.
Lisciandro also spoke to being gay in a Christian environment:
"Because I want kids to see me and know that you can be a Christian and you can be gay. You can be gay, you can teach at a Christian school. You don't have to feel shame about who you love, or who you are, or how you were born to be."
Lisciandro remains supportive to the Christian roots displayed in her former school, while also fighting for allyship for fellow LGBTQ+ members and her students.
It looks like the school and the students lost far more than they gained by firing Lisciandro.
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!