A Florida Christian school is scrambling to find a teacher who can direct musical theater after firing their previous instructor for being a lesbian.
The trouble began on October 2, when teacher Monica Toro Lisciandro was called into a meeting with administrators at the Covenant Christian School in Palm Bay.
The school had received an anonymous call, accusing Lisciandro of being in a relationship with a woman. She was also accused of attending Pride events and hosting an LGBTQ+ support group on her personal time. “Well, it’s true,” she responded according to Florida Today.
The school quickly fired her, and sent out a misleading letter to parents.
"I am sorry to say that for personal reasons, Mrs. Lisciandro is not able to continue teaching our musical theater class,” the head of school, Lorne Wenzel, wrote. “We are aggressively pursuing another teacher to finish the class and (direct) our play, and I will keep you posted." But Lisciandro doesn’t intend to be silent about the incident.
“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,” she told Florida Today. “To think that something like this could happen to them makes me feel really upset and angry, because they deserve better.”
In response, the school released a statement to defend their exclusionary policy.
“Covenant Christian School requires that all employees must agree to and model our position on human sexuality, which is based on the biblical teaching that asks all Christ-followers to abstain from any sexual activities outside of a one-man, one-woman marriage,” reads the statement. “We require that teachers strive to reflect in their own lives the biblical principles that they teach.”
Florida has no job protections covering sexual orientation and gender identity. Because the school is church-affiliated, most nondiscrimination laws wouldn’t apply anyway — through the school does receive money from taxpayers in the form of vouchers.
Palm Bay was set to pass a human rights ordinance in 2016 that would have included LGBTQ+ people, but community members derailed the process at public comment sessions by claiming that it would invite lawsuits. The tired and baseless argument about bathroom predators was also deployed to stop the nondiscrimination bill.
Lisciandro has an extensive teaching and dramatic background. She owns the Viera Studio for the Performing Arts in Suntree, and has spent over a decade working with youth in New York City.
Her class at Covenant Christian School included about 35 students, who were in the midst of rehearsing "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" when she was asked to leave.
Speaking to Florida Today, Viera Studio staffer Corey Beattie said, “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.”
In a similar case, Cathedral High School in Indiana fired teacher Joshua Payne-Elliott for being gay. The Trump administration’s Department of Justice filed a statement with the court in a lawsuit that followed that firing, writing that federal officials have “substantial interest in religious liberty.”