Metro Weekly

New Jersey school district settles lawsuit brought by teacher who made anti-gay comments

Jenye Knox alleged that the Union Township school district discriminated against her based on religious beliefs

A former New Jersey high school teacher who was suspended after she posted anti-gay comments on her public Facebook page has settled a discrimination lawsuit she brought against the school district.

The Union Township school district agreed to pay Jenye “Viki” Knox $132,500 to settle the lawsuit, reports The Star-Ledger. That amount includes $24,500 in back wages, money for “emotional distress” Knox suffered because of her suspension, and attorney’s fees.

Knox came under intense scrutiny in 2011 after ranting against a high school display marking LGBT History Month on her public Facebook page, calling homosexuality a “perverted spirit” and a “sin” that “breeds like cancer.”

“Why Parade your unnatural immoral behaviors before the rest of us?” Knox wrote. “I DO NOT HAVE TO TOLERATE ANYTHING OTHERS WISH TO DO. I DO HAVE TO LOVE AND SPEAK AND DO WHAT’S RIGHT!”

When Knox’s comments were made public, many, including LGBTQ rights group Garden State Equality, called for her to be disciplined.

“Teachers are supposed to be role models for our children, not hatemongers,” Steven Goldstein, the chairman of Garden State Equality, said at the time.

Knox was then suspended without pay from her tenured position as an elementary special education teacher in December 2011. Six months later, she resigned, citing health problems caused by the stress placed on her by the suspension.

She sued the district in federal court in 2013, claiming that it had discriminated against her based on her religious beliefs and her race — with the latter charge being dismissed by the court. She also claimed the suspension violated her free speech rights, and that the district had denied her due process.

In January, Knox reached an agreement with the state Department of Education, which had attempted to permanently revoke three of her teaching certificates. She subsequently agreed to a three-year suspension of all three certifications.

A confidentiality clause prevents both sides from discussing any other details in the settlement.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com