Texas teacher placed on leave after parents complained about her virtual 'Black Lives Matter' poster
via Change.org

Taylor Lifka, a 25-year-old English teacher at Roma High School in Roma, Texas, wanted to create an inclusive environment for her online classes this school year.

So she created a virtual background with posters that read: "Black Lives Matter," "Amiga, tu lucha es mi lucha," (Your struggle is my struggle) and "Diverse, Inclusive, Accepting, Welcoming, Safe Space for Everyone" in rainbow colors.

Before the first day of school, she asked her incoming students to put their names and preferred pronouns in the chat box on the digital chalkboard. Then, she posted a screenshot of her classroom on her social media.

Some parents complained about the inclusive posters to the principal.


"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," Lifka told The Texas Tribune.

via Change.org

However, the district did just that – put her on administrative leave. She was also told that some parents were not ready for her progressive views.

"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," Lifka said according to Yahoo. "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."

Supporters fought back by starting a petition that received nearly 35,000 signatures.

"Please sign this petition to let the school district know that inclusivity and acceptance are not taboo ideas that deserve censorship; that high school students can and should be allowed to discuss the realities of the world instead of being sheltered inside a sanitized bubble; and that by reprimanding the teacher for trying to create a safe space for her students, the school is not being neutral, but is actively taking a stance that is antithetical to justice," the petition read.

The situation then became part of the local culture wars when a photograph of the virtual classroom was shared on a pro-Trump Facebook page and then amplified by Marian Knowlton, a Republican running for the District 31 state House seat.

Knowlton claimed that the education system was "radicalizing" students in "leftist indoctrination."

All this because Lifka was trying to create an inclusive environment for her students.

"Our nation is in a really divisive state right now, and so when something like this comes out that a teacher is being placed on administrative leave because of parents' concerns over teaching tolerance in the classroom, that's a bigger question," she said.

On Tuesday, Lifka was reinstated by the district, but she refused to return to work until there were clearer inclusivity guidelines for teachers.

"I need support from the administration, knowing I can re-enter the classroom, that we are all on the same page knowing what I can and cannot say to my students," she said.

Lifka hopes that, in the end, the situation will be a learning opportunity for the district.

"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?" Lifka said.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less