Metro Weekly

Arizona art teacher fired for allegedly discriminating against transgender student

Teacher is accused of failing a trans student, lowering an atheist student's grade, and proselytizing to her class

Arizona College Prep, Erie Campus – Photo: Facebook.

An Arizona art teacher has been terminated for allegedly discriminating against a transgender student.

The techer also allegedly attempted to proselytize to her class by bringing a box of Bibles into her classroom.

Annella Krom, a teacher at the Erie campus of Arizona College Preparatory in Chandler, Ariz., was reportedly fired from her job after engaging in behavior that the Chandler Unified School District found “objectionable, disrespectful, and unprofessional,” according to a report by the school district.

Chief among the accusations leveled against Krom are that she failed a transgender student on an assignment after the student wanted to do an art project focusing on their personal journey and understanding of their gender identity.

Initially, Krom told the student that the subject was inappropriate for a classroom environment. She later confirmed that she rejected the topic because it conflicted with her own religious beliefs, according to the district’s report.

After the student complained to the principal, who determined there was nothing objectionable about the student’s proposed project, Krom wrote an email to the principal saying she does not condone the LGBTQ lifestyle and refused to assist in creating artwork that glorifies it, according to the East Valley Tribune.

“Either this topic is the priority or the word of God is,” she reportedly wrote in the email.

Krom then gave the student zero out of a possible 50 points for the project, explaining to Arizona College Prep’s principal that giving the student a higher grade would violate her conscience. The student later asked to be placed in another class.

But that wasn’t the only complaint lodged against Krom, according to the district’s report.

Another transgender student complained of feeling disrespected after Krom refused to call them by their preferred name matching their gender identity. Similar incidents in other states have resulted in the dismissal of teachers who refuse to use a student’s correct pronouns.

Most recently, a teacher in West Point, Va., was terminated after he claimed his religious beliefs prevented him from acknowledging a transgender student’s gender identity.

Related: West Point, Va., teacher sues over firing for refusing to use transgender student’s correct pronouns

Other students claimed that Krom of trying to proselytize during class, saying she freely discussed her Christian beliefs and expressed antigay viewpoints.

They claimed she brought in a box of Bibles to her classroom, which she claimed had been donated to the school, and said students were free to take one. A parent later complained to the school district about that incident. 

Still another student claimed that Krom regularly questioned her pro-choice stance on abortion, gave the student a Bible, and encouraged the student to rethink their morals.

When the student told Krom she was agnostic or an atheist, Krom allegedly lowered the student’s grade on an assignment, without offering any explanation.

“Student reasonably believes the change in her grading was the result of discrimination by teacher,” the district’s report states.

The Chandler Unified School District subsequently charged Krom with violating a provision of her contract prohibiting teachers from discriminating against co-workers, students, or parents based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

As for the accusations of proselytizing, while the First Amendment generally allows individuals to exercise their free speech rights in public schools, CUSD claims that Krom’s First Amendment rights were not violated because case law has established that a public school’s aim to not favor one religion over another overrides an individual teacher’s religious beliefs.

Arizona law currently offers an exception for including the Bible in school curriculum if it is part of a voluntary elective course that maintains religious neutrality. But the district says Krom’s art class does not meet the criteria to qualify for that exception.

According to Arizona state law, a teacher can have their certification revoked if they teach “any sectarian doctrine or conduct any religious exercises in school.”

On Sept. 11, the Chandler Unified Governing Board found that there was good cause to dismiss Krom and place her on administrative leave.

She was given until Sept. 26 to request a hearing to contest the allegations against her before the board would consider termination, but Krom never sought a hearing.

Krom has declined to respond to request for comment, referring questions from media outlets to her lawyer. It is unclear at this time whether she intends to pursue a lawsuit contesting her firing.

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

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