A Missouri teacher resigned after his school forced him to sign a letter vowing to never tell his students he is gay.
John Wallis taught speech and theatre a Neosho Junior High School – until he quit after a volley of parents complained about him hanging a Pride flag in his classroom.
“A parent called last week to complain that I was going to teach their child to be gay,” he said in a Twitter thread.
Now that everything is officially over, I can share some news;
I am no longer a teacher with Neosho…
— John M. Wallis (He/Him) (@MrJWallis) September 5, 2021
Wallis explained how he ensured his classroom was a welcoming and safe space for his students. Decorating the room with an LGBT+ Pride flag, he hung a sign that read: “In This Classroom, EVERYONE is Welcome.”
“This was an attempt to make my classroom more open and welcoming for all of my students, and nothing was ever taught about the flag because it stood there as a reflection of my classroom as a safe space for my LGBTQIA+ students,” he wrote.
Missouri school bans gay teacher from mentioning any ‘reference’ to LGBT+ people
But the simple display rankled a parent who became convinced that Wallis was out to “teach their child to be gay”.
“I was then instructed to take my flag and signs down,” Wallis said.
“In fact, the use of the Pride flag in my classroom was compared to hanging the Confederate flag in my classroom.”
Wallis’ students then asked why the flag had been removed. If any had a problem with who he is, he told them, there were other classes.
“This led to three or more calls from parents accusing me of pushing my agenda in the classroom,” he continued.
“I was then asked to sign a letter that stated I would not discuss human sexuality or my own personal sexuality in the classroom and could have no displays or coursework on those subjects.”
The letter, obtained by Springfield News-Leader, stated: “There will be no references to sexuality or gender displayed in your classroom.
“Your instruction and classroom conversations will stay clear of discussions regarding human sexuality and/or sexual preference.”
“This action was the reason for my resignation,” Wallis said.
Neosho School District superintendent Jim Cummins confirmed to KOAM News that Wallis filed his resignation 1 September.
“There is never a problem when a heterosexual teacher displays pictures of themselves and their spouses in a classroom but I have a flag and all hell breaks loose,” Wallis added.
“My administrators chose to believe the bigotry of parents over their building’s teacher. To say I am devastated is an understatement.”
With the school’s threadbare anti-discrimination policy lacking protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, Wallis’ only recourse has been to file a complaint with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.
For Missouri representative Cyrstal Quade, what happened to Wallis is proof that the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, a long-sought for bill that would ban anti-LGBT+ discrimination, must finally be passed.
It has been submitted by Democrats every year for the last two decades, according to the Missouri branch of the ACLU.
“[Wallis] thank you for your dedication to our kids,” Quade tweeted Monday (6 September).
“I am ashamed this happened and continues to happen in our state. You – and our kids – deserve better.
“[The Missouri General Assembly] needs to be on the right side of history. MONA must become law and we must start putting all of our kids first.”
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