A federal investigation has begun in an Alabama school district after a Junior ROTC instructor allegedly expressed his belief that the Bible does not support the homosexual lifestyle during class.
The U.S. Department of Education recently sent a letter to Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski, informing him that the department will be looking into the incident that occurred in April at Grissom High School.
A female student in the class was offended after the instructor, 1st Sgt. Lynn Vanzandt, expressed his beliefs about same-sex relationships. The 15-year-old student and her mother, Mia Gonzales, then contacted a local gay advocacy group, GLBT Advocacy and Youth Services, which complained to the school on the student's behalf.
"My first thought was, 'What if there was a gay student in that class that looked up to that instructor?'" Gonzales told AL.com in August. "I'm not arguing with what people believe. But what if this one student would have committed suicide? That was a concern for me."
On Nov. 21 the DOE sent a letter to James Robinson, director of GLBT Advocacy and Youth Services, which says the department will be investigating whether or not students were "subjected to a hostile environment on the basis of sex or harassment based on failing to conform to gender stereotypes." They will also seek to find out if the school district "retaliated against the Student...by failing to respond and take action reasonably calculated to stop the peer bullying."
A statement from Huntsville City Schools, which was emailed to The Christian Post by district spokesperson Keith Ward on Friday, points out that the letter from the DOE's Office For Civil Rights (OCR) indicates the department has not yet come to any conclusions regarding the incident.
"The letter notes that the investigation 'in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with reqard to their merits,' and that the 'OCR is a neutral fact-finder' in analyzing the complaint," the statement reads. "The district will work with the OCR to provide any assistance to assure a prompt resolution."
In May an attorney from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist organization, also emailed the district's superintendent to complain about the situation. The email says Vanzandt "bullied" students and "preached" his beliefs to them, and claims at least one student left the class in tears.
It also acknowledges that Vanzandt apologized to students, but says an apology isn't enough.
In a letter of response, the attorney for the Huntsville City Board of Education, J.R. Brooks, called the accusation of bullying "more than a little over the top."
"I am sorry...you do not believe that an apology is in the slightest way helpful," wrote Brooks in August. "The Superintendent disagrees with your point of view. Absent further conduct of a similar nature, this matter is closed."
According to sources that spoke with WHNT-TV in Huntsville, there are conflicting accounts from other students of what happened during the classroom conversation in April – specifically concerning the context of the conversation and who said what.