A paraprofessional at DeLand High School said she has been harassed on the job after refusing to remove a poster of Jesus from her workspace, but school officials say there is more to the story.
Nancy Amiot-Galarza works with DHS students in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.
She has worked at the high school for 15 years and said she has had the Jesus picture on her wall for 10 years.
Only on the first day of the 2018-19 school year did it become a problem, Amiot-Galarza said, when DHS Assistant Principal Issella Vega asked Amiot-Galarza to remove the poster.
Amiot-Galarza declined, because other school employees are allowed to have personal items in their workspaces, she said.
“This Ms. Vega is going out of control against me,” Amiot-Galarza told The Beacon.
She said she has been subject to micromanagement, changes in her work assignments and lunch schedule, constant checking of her work by Vega, and other forms of harassment — all because of the Jesus poster.
“It’s very emotional, and it’s attacking my health,” Amiot-Galarza said. “I just want to take care of the kids.”
Amiot-Galarza said she has been sick to the point of hospitalization over worrying about her job.
Dr. Melissa Carr, principal of DeLand High, denied that the poster is central to the story.
“I can tell you that that is not true,” she said.
Carr declined to speak in more detail, for fear that she could violate Amiot-Galarza’s privacy by talking about Amiot-Galarza’s job performance.
In general, Carr said, she and Vega have the students uppermost in mind.
“We want to ensure that everyone is doing their job as they should, for the students’ sake,” Carr said.
As for religious posters of any kind, Carr said, they are not allowed, in general. She said Amiot-Galarza’s poster is not in a private office space.
“This is a public space where students come and go,” Carr said.
Carr said Amiot-Galarza’s complaint about harassment was referred to Anne Marie Wrenn, Volusia County Schools’ equity and compliance officer.
Wrenn also declined to speak in detail about the particular case, but she said Volusia County Schools follows the guidance of case law and court rulings in interpreting the effect on schools of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the clause reads.
Wrenn said a teacher, for example, would not be prohibited from having a Bible in his or her desk, and reading it during a break, but “The courts have continuously held that schools can’t display religious messages.”
Wrenn said Amiot-Galarza’s Jesus poster is in a room that students frequent for services, and that it is about three times larger than a standard poster size.
Amiot-Galarza disputed that. She said students enter her small office infrequently, for intake testing. She also said she is unaware of any complaints from students about the poster, or any disciplinary actions against her about her job performance.
Equity and Compliance Officer Wrenn said the Volusia County School Board does not have a policy governing the display of religious items in schools, but relies on court decisions.
In an email shared with The Beacon by Amiot-Galarza, Vega confirmed that Amiot-Galarza was to remove the Jesus poster by Friday, Feb. 1.
“I’m going to just tell them, you want it so much to take it down, you take it down,” Amiot-Galarza told The Beacon Thursday evening, Jan. 31.
The Beacon was unable to reach her Feb. 1.