Dad sues Palm Beach County school district over LGBTQ pride flags in classroom

Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 1:15 PM EDT
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A Wellington father is suing the School District of Palm Beach County after he claimed his son’s teacher put up two LGBTQ pride flags in her classroom.

Dr. Francisco Deliu's 12-year-old son is in seventh grade at Emerald Cove Middle School.

Deliu filed a lawsuit on Oct. 12 against the school district, Palm Beach County School Board, the middle school, principal Dr. Eugina Smith-Freeman and teacher Rachel Raos.

According to the lawsuit, Deliu's son on Sept. 16 said his computer science teacher put up two "'gay pride' (rainbow) flags" in her classroom, then used a search engine to find websites about homosexual lifestyles and "proselytized to the students in class."

The lawsuit implied the teacher tried to encourage students to change their beliefs to match hers.

Deliu said his family is Christian-Orthodox and considers homosexuality a sin, saying in the lawsuit it's "not in accordance with their Bible."

Deliu drafted a complaint letter to the school's principal, Smith-Freeman, which Deliu claimed she "dismissed."

"He asked for reasons, but the Principal refused to justify her decision," the lawsuit said.

READ: Lawsuit against School District of Palm Beach County

On Sept. 21, Deliu went to Emerald Cove Middle School and asked for his son to be temporarily removed from the teacher’s classroom. According to the lawsuit, school officials said they would look to see if they could move him into another computer science class.

"The School did not keep its promise and, instead, unilaterally and without notice to Dr. Deliu moved his son into an art class," the lawsuit said.

When Deliu objected to this, he was told on Sept. 26 the matter was being referred to the school district's Office of Professional Standards for an administrative investigation.

The lawsuit claimed Deliu's complaints to both the school and school board have not been properly investigated.

"The Complaints are going stale and the ongoing delay prejudices Dr. Deliu's son's education who has missed almost 4 weeks of his elected computer science education to instead be forced into an art class that does not benefit his career and thereby educational aspirations," the lawsuit stated.

Deliu claimed the teacher's actions are a violation of Florida's "Parents' Bill of Rights" law, which was passed and went into effect in 2021.

The law gives parents "the right to direct the education and care of his or her minor child" and "the right to direct the upbringing and the moral or religious training of his or her minor child."

"Dr. Deliu wishes to teach his child about homosexual lifestyle choices not in the public school system but instead at home," the lawsuit said.

Deliu's lawsuit claimed Emerald Cove Middle School is trying to "mold his child's mind without his consent," adding that "there is no lawful authority that permits the Teacher, Principal, School, District and/or Board to teach, discuss or otherwise educate the students, including Dr. Deliu's son, about gay pride, homosexuality or the like but especially not in a computer science course."

Deliu is asking for a jury trial and wants the court to declare the teacher's decision to discuss gay pride and homosexuality illegal, as well as order the teacher to permanently take the flags down, and compel the school district and school board to "conduct and complete investigations" into his complaints.

Finally, Deliu is demanding the teacher and principal issue a public written apology, and for that apology to be published on the School District of Palm Beach County's website.

The School District of Palm Beach County released the following written statement to WPTV about the lawsuit:

"The School District does not typically comment on pending litigation, however, we look forward to the facts in this case unfolding during the process."

“I felt that was improper because I don’t send my child to that school to be taught homosexuality and taught gay pride,” Deliu told WFLX education reporter Stephanie Susskind on Wednesday. “I thought we sent children to school to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic.”

That was Deliu's reaction when his son came home from Emerald Cove Middle School and said his computer science teacher hung a LGBTQ pride flag in the classroom, then answered a student's question about what it meant.

"It's our religion. We are Christian-Orthodox. Our religion teaches us that it's a sin," Deliu said. "That's not to say we judge the individuals or have any problem with it. I'm personally a libertarian and I think everyone should live and let live."

Deliu said he filed a complaint and the school's principal said the flags were allowed.

"The problem is really two-fold," Deliu said. "The merits of, I say what's happening is wrong. But it's also the procedure they are following appears to be ad hoc, if not outright misleading."

On its website, the School District of Palm Beach County has a LGBTQ+ Critical Support Guide.

While it doesn't mention flags, it does discuss safe space posters and stickers and said "a teacher should not let fear of parent reaction dissuade him or her from going public with LGBTQ+ support."

"I think we kind of had an inkling that this would eventually happen," said Julie Seaver, the executive director at the Compass Community Center.

Seaver said the school district has long been inclusive of LGBTQ students and she doesn't believe that will change.

"It's my hope that this will be squashed before it goes any further," Seaver said.

"The Parental Bill of Rights, the 2021 legislation, is very clear that parents have the religious and moral imperatives," Deliu said.

Deliu is standing firm to continue his fight and hopes the court agrees.

"I'm not in favor of the school have anything to do with either religious or political or social indoctrination," Deliu said.

Deliu wants to amend his lawsuit after he said he learned that another one of his son's teachers put up a LGBTQ pride flag. He had his son moved out of that classroom as well.

According to court records, a Nov. 1 hearing is scheduled to lay out a timeline for the case.

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