UPDATE: Four Dumont High School science teachers were suspended for anti-gay remarks about a female colleague during a Zoom class.
The teachers will continue to be paid as an investigation continues, with possible disciplinary penalties to follow, they said.
A student captured a screenshot from a teacher’s monitor during the disturbing open group Zoom chat last month.
“Who the hell is that kid with [the] gay gym teacher?” one asked.
“Why is that kid with the gay gym teacher,” another wrote.
"Is that her adopted kid? Who is gonna be all f----d up growing up watching 2 chicks kissing and calling them both mom...," the first responded.
Dumont Mayor Andrew LaBruno brought the chat to the attention of Schools Supt. Emanuele Triggiano, who, he said, assured him that “this incident is being taken seriously and will be thoroughly investigated."
The mayor called the chat "disturbing and extremely appalling."
Meanwhile, more than 25,000 signatures were gathered on a change.org petition created by a DHS graduate, Matthew DeMarco, calling for the teachers' ouster.
District Business Administrator Kevin Cartotto announced the suspensions during an in-person board meeting Thursday night. State law prevents withholding pay during an investigative suspension, he noted.
Officials didn’t identify the teachers, one of whose name appears in a screengrab shared on the petition.
"These homophobic comments do not reflect our community's values, nor do they represent our beliefs in the borough of Dumont," the mayor said when the incident first came to light in the nearly two-square-mile working-class town of nearly 17,500 residents. "We are an inclusive and welcoming community.
"While there is still much work to be done fighting against inequalities and standing up for human rights, our educators mold our children's minds," LaBruno said, " and these comments have no place in our education system. Dumont is one big family, and together we must ensure that all of our neighbors know that hate has no home here."
The incident resonated beyond Dumont’s borders.
"The homophobic comments of educators during school classes is outrageous and underscores the fact that work surrounding lived equality is never over," Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of the LGBTQ rights organization Garden State Equality, said in a statement.
"My classroom has been a garden to grow for All my students no matter who they are," a fellow educator, Christopher Boettger of Washington Township, wrote on the petition. "Each and every one has god given gifts that they may share with whom they love.
"For any educator to make these homophobic comments means they do not deserve to be in the classroom for ALL their students and must be removed. I am so honored to see all my past students and their integrity it makes me proud. Change IS the future."
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