Vernon school officials say they support LGBTQ students after teacher comes under fire

Vernon. Veteran teacher Robert Dejulia discussed the transgender status of one of his students in a board meeting, saying that his religious faith prevents him from complying with state law in recognizing an LGBTQ student’s right to privacy.

| 17 Jun 2021 | 02:06

Comments about an LGBTQ student made in public by Robert Dejulia, a 20-year teacher in the Vernon Township School District, have come under fire.

During the school board’s June 3 meeting, Dejulia discussed the transgender status of an eighth-grader in his classroom. He said he had received an email from a school authority that one of his students had changed their name and preferred pronoun, and that the student’s parents didn’t know about the change. Ultimately, the student did come out to their parents.

Dejulia said he will not abide by state statute protecting transgender students if he encounters the same situation in the future. He said his church and his faith were the foundation for his decision, and quoted scripture. He also referred to a “60 Minutes” episode featuring trans people who regret changing their gender.

He said the school can inform parents about all sorts of negative behavior, but not their gender status, even when the child hasn’t yet reached puberty. He said this practice is dishonest and deceptive.

He said his heart breaks for LGBTQ students and that they need help from courageous adults.

’Incredibly disappointing comments’

At the next school board meeting, on June 10, board president Justin Annunziata said he wanted to “assure the community that our superintendent of schools and our assistant superintendent of schools are committed to assure that all district policies are followed at all times, particularly when it comes to policies that are designed to assure the protection and welfare of all of our students.

“On a personal note, I want to highlight that June is Pride Month, and that the LGBTQ community is a big part of the Vernon school district. We honor and welcome all those members of that community to our schools and we appreciate them being a part of our school.”

Zoe Heath said she started the Sussex County Pride organization while attending Vernon schools. She came out in the seventh grade, she said.

She remembered Dejulia placing a cross over his classroom door, facing the hallway. She said she didn’t like the way he talked about LGBTQ people, and that he made “incredibly disappointing comments.”

She said Dejulia treated her differently from everybody else, making comments out of place “not only as an educator, but as a human being.” She said he could have gotten somebody killed with the way he talked about transgender students in public. She called for Dejulia to resign, as “he does not represent Vernon schools.”

Simone Krause of Vernon, vice president of the TriVersity Center for Gender & Sexual Diversity, based in Milford, Pa., said Dejulia is violating the federal Health Information Privacy law when outing any transgender child. “So if he decides to go rogue and not follow the guidelines, I can only hope the consequences will not just be a slap on the wrist,” she said.

“His concern that their brain is not fully developed enough to understand what they are doing is curious while quoting the 60 minutes episode about transgender brain size,” said Krause. “With this type of thinking, he must also be against anyone under 25, making a judgement to buy a car, marry, have a baby, drink, vote and go off to fight our wars, among the many other decisions anyone under 25 makes.”

Also at the June 10 meeting, English teacher Vicky Smith, the teachers union president, said the New Jersey Education Association supports LGBTQ students, staff and community.

In November 2018, New Jersey clarified the civil rights of LGBTQ students, especially transgender students. Any student’s stated gender identity preference is to be accepted without notifying parents about the student’s gender decision, the state said.

Editor’s note: Please see related story “Parent objects to ‘cross dressing’ by substitute teacher.”