LEE COUNTY, FL (WBBH/WCMH) — A Florida high school teacher and JROTC instructor has been suspended after an investigation found he tried forcing his religious beliefs regarding sexual orientation and gender identity on his students.
Matthew Garza and Kyle Goffena both identify as transgender and were sophomores in Angel Villanueva’s JROTC class last year. They said Villanueva made it clear at the beginning of the school year that he was against anyone who identified as gay and lesbian, as it did not agree with his religion. They were comments Garza and Goffena expected from a schoolyard bully, not their teacher.
“He would say that we were an abomination. That we were going to end the world,” Garza said. One day Villanueva stopped Garza in the hallway to hand her something. “He tried offering me a book called Gay No More.”
Garza and Goffena both say the teacher would single them out in class on occasion and that the comments were so severe that they dreaded going to Villanueva’s class.
“[He said] that I wasn’t happy with who I am and that I would regret this in the future,” Garza said.
“It’s terrible,” Goffena added. “It’s just not something you should say to a student.
The superintendent launched an investigation after Garza filed a complaint. The investigation led to Villanueva’s suspension without pay in July.
Villanueva contends that he was only trying to do what was in his students’ best interest at a school board meeting last Tuesday. Garza and Goffena disagree.
“It’s not right to force it upon somebody,” Garza said.