HUNTSVILLE, December 7, 2012, ( – The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has launched a federal investigation over a conversation between a Huntsville JROTC instructor and a lesbian student about the Bible and homosexuality. 

Last April, Virgil Grissom High School student Taylor Sisk, 15, asked a local homosexual activist to file a complaint on her behalf after 1st Sgt. Lynn Vanzandt allegedly told her that he believed the Bible says homosexuality is a sin.  It is unclear how the conversation began. 


Sisk, who leads her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club, claimed she was talking to another girl about wanting to live in San Francisco when Vanzandt made his remarks.  Other witnesses have said the girls directly asked Vanzandt his opinion on homosexuality. Sisk claimed they then asked him to stop talking about it and, when he refused, her friend ran crying from the room. 

Vanzandt is reported to have apologized to his class the day after the incident.

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That was not enough for James Robinson, the local homosexual activist who filed the original complaint on Sisk’s behalf.  After complaining to the school board, he then filed a grievance with the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which led to a federal investigation. 

Robinson admitted that other students initiated the conversation with the teacher, but insisted that the instructor was still out of line.

“A student contacted me asking me for help when this situation happened,” James Robinson, who runs the GLBT Advocacy and Youth Services Center in Huntsville, told WHNT-19 TV. “[Vanzandt] doesn’t know what’s in the hearts and minds of all the students. He doesn’t know what might offend some students. It is a very touchy question. If someone asks your opinion, you may have the appropriateness to give it. But that’s not the perception of what happened according to the other student.”

The Department of Education sent a letter to Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski this week, informing him that federal investigators will look into claims of alleged harassment and discrimination related to Robinson’s complaint. 

The letter says the OCR will investigate “whether the students were subjected to a hostile environment on the basis of sex or harassment based on failing to conform to gender stereotypes, when a JROTC teacher made comments about the Bible and homosexuality.”

“Huntsville City Schools received a letter this week from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights of its intentions to investigate a complaint,” the school district said in a press release. “The letter notes that the investigation in no way implies that the OCR has made a determination with regard to their merits, and that the OCR is a neutral fact-finder in analyzing the complaint. The district will work with the OCR to provide any assistance to assure a prompt resolution.”

To read the full letter from the U.S. Department of Education, click here.