More than a hundred students at Winterset High School in Iowa staged a defiant walkout after their teacher was disciplined for telling his class he was bisexual.
Seventh-grade literacy teacher Lucas Kaufmann was placed on administrative leave last week after he included an LGBT+ flag on a “Things that describe me” slide in an introductory presentation to students.
When asked by the children, Kaufmann said he was bisexual – a disclosure that enraged several parents.
Fortunately the students didn’t share their view, and made it known in a Change.org petition demanding “justice” for their teacher.
“[Mr Kaufmann] wanted to make sure that the LGBTQ+ students at the school know that he was a safe person to talk to and an ally for them,” the petition reads. “It is absolutely unjust and downright disgusting that government officials have now made this whole situation political.”
It continues: “The only thing he is guilty of is trying to show his students they could have a safe person to talk to about themselves and their sexual orientation, without any form of judgment.”
With the petition gathering over 2,000 signatures, on Tuesday (7 September) the students took their protest offline by staging a walkout at their school.
Savannah Charlet, an eighth grader who was taught by Kaufmann last year, said the district’s actions reflect poorly on the community.
“It’s showing how homophobic our town is and it’s not a good reputation for our school,” she told Des Moines Register. “It’s proving that kids cannot come out without punishment.”
She added that she and others were walking out because “teachers should have the right to be who they are.”
Kiona Newbrough, a 10th grader and author of the Change.org petition, said the district needs more teachers like Kaufmann who can relate to LGBT+ students.
“When I was in junior high it would have been great to have a bisexual teacher or someone that I would feel safe talking about my sexuality with,” she said.
Winterset community school district superintendent Justin Gross confirmed to Des Moines Register that Kaufmann was placed on leave after concerns were raised following a presentation, but declined further comment.
The teacher is reportedly still on suspension and an outcome of the situation is yet to be announced.
Courtney Reyes, executive director of the LGBT+ group One Iowa, said the situation raises a red flag.
“We really hope this person is getting the support that they need and the community can get the support they need because that sends a really harmful message to the LGBTQ students in the district that they are not valid,” she said.
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