June July 2016
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The Advocate

Gay Teacher Loses Job After Hanging a Rainbow Peace Sign

Tolerance

A gay graduate student said he was forced to quit a teaching internship in Arkansas after backlash for promoting tolerance with classroom posters.

The intern, Michael, who did not reveal his last name to news outlet Arkansas Matters, said he encountered a “hostile work environment” at Osceola High School.

Michael, who had held an internship as a math teacher, sparked controversy when he hung a sign depicting a rainbow peace sign and the message “Tolerance = Peace” in his classroom.

After learning of the sign — one of four Michael displayed that celebrated diversity — parents complained to school administrators, who told the teacher, “This isn't the place to promote that agenda,” Michael recalled.

"Tolerance equals peace," Michael told Alabama Matters. "There's nothing gay about that. That's just true."

Michael was not out to his students and “was under explicit orders not to talk about it, and I never did.”

Administrators forced Michael to remove the sign, which in turn engendered what he described as a "hostile work environment” for about a month. This led to his quitting in September.

Michael graduated in December from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a degree in Master of Curriculum and Instruction. But because of the resignation, he did not receive his teaching license.

As a result of the incident, he is filing a complaint based on Title IX, a federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, and in some cases, LGBT bias.

Michael is serving as a teaching assistant in a new school, but said the posters will not be making another appearance.

"I'm just too afraid to cause that kind of controversy again," he stated. 

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