Four high school teachers caught by a student making homophobic comments in a Zoom call last month were suspended with pay for their actions on Thursday. According to NorthJersey.com, the four unnamed educators all teach at Dumont High School in Dumont, New Jersey, and were screenshotted making disturbing comments about the school’s lesbian gym teacher and her child on Wednesday, November 25. While the punishment amounts to little more than a paid vacation, the school district claimed state law prevents the suspension of teachers without pay.
“Why is that kid with the gay gym teacher?” one teacher identified as AJ wrote in a screenshot of the conversation.
When another teacher responds, AJ continues: “Is that her adopted kid? Who is gonna be all fucked up growing up watching 2 chicks kissing and calling them both mom…”
Calling the comments “disturbing and extremely appalling,” Dumont Mayor Andrew LaBruno wrote on Facebook the “homophobic comments do not reflect our community's values, nor do they represent our beliefs in the Borough of Dumont. We are an inclusive and welcoming community.”
According to a Change.org petition, a current student saw the open group chat on a teacher’s monitor during class. The student was shocked by the homophobic comments, and took a screenshot of the conversation. The screenshot was passed to and publicly revealed by Matthew DeMarco, a former student of the school who said he was “appalled” by the chat.
“I had her when I was a student, and she was a safety net for many students,” DeMarco said of the gym teacher in a previous interview. “She showed compassion for her students and she showed she cared for her students. It was just seeing her being talked about like that by her colleagues, by high school teachers. It's unbelievable.”
The petition asked for the immediate “forced resignations” of the employees in the conversation, and had gained over 25,000 signatures at the time this article was published. The punishment of suspension without pay handed out to the four teachers was not enough for some.
“The board is constantly on teachers to show concern for their students and I think there were a lot of students in town, with the town becoming more diverse and more progressive, that were looking for their board to come out against that,” said Dumont resident and mother of two school age children, Jennifer Grom, who teaches in another school district.