A theater teacher at a Christian school in Florida says she was fired because she’s a lesbian.
Monica Toro Lisciandro claims she was fired from her position at Covenant Christian School, a private school in Palm Bay, Fla., after someone called the school and said that she was in a relationship with a woman, had attended a pride festival, and hosted an LGBTQ group in a studio that she owns.
Lisciandro, a former professional actress who toured the country as a member of various theater companies in New York before returning to her native Brevard County, had taught at Covenant Christian school for about 10 hours a week for the past three years. This year, her students were in the midst of putting on a production of the musical comedy You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
She also owns the Viera Studio for the Performing Arts in Suntree, Fla., which hosts meetings of the Rainbow Project, a youth club for LGBTQ youth and their allies that raises funds for local nonprofit organizations.
Lisciandro told administrators that the rumors about her being a lesbian were true, and was terminated as a result, reports Florida Today.
Last week, Lorne Wenzel, the head of Covenant Christian School, wrote an email to parents whose children were enrolled in Lisciandro’s musical theater class, which read: “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.”
According to a statement on Covenant Christian School’s website, the school’s mission is to “glorify God by cultivating wise servant leaders through nurturing Christ-like character, promoting individual academic excellence, and developing a Biblical worldview in its students.”
The school’s nondiscrimination policy contains protections against discrimination based on “race, color, or national and ethnic origin,” but not for sexual orientation.
The school does receive taxpayer money through participating in Florida’s school voucher program, which gives financial vouchers to families of low-income students, who can then use it to help pay tuition to attend private schools.
Some people might object to the idea of a school receiving taxpayer money and using that money to actively discriminate against a particular group of people. However, Florida state law contains no prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, which means Lisciandro’s legal options are limited.
Additionally, even if Florida had such a law in place, religious-oriented schools are often exempt from having to abide by the same rules as public schools.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in three cases over whether private employers have a right to fire employees because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. A decision is suspected sometime next year.
Lisciandro says she’s been sad to lose her job.
“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,” she said. “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. 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,” adds Lisciandro. “You don’t have to feel shame about who you love, or who you are, or how you were born to be.”