A substitute teacher in Utah told a fifth-grader the week before Thanksgiving that he shouldn’t be thankful for his gay dads.
The teacher then went on a 10-minute rant about how “homosexuality is a sin” and “two men living together is wrong,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
The fifth-grader, whose parents are referring to him as “D.M.” to protect his privacy, had reportedly told his class at Deerfield Elementary School that he was thankful that he would finally be adopted by his two dads.
“Why on Earth would you be thankful about that?” his teacher responded, beginning her tirade, reported the Salt Lake Tribune.
Three girls asked her to stop before getting the principal. The teacher was then escorted off the premises. As she went, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, she continued to argue.
The boys’ fathers, Louis and Josh van Amstel, said school officials called them immediately after the incident. They say D.M. didn’t speak up against the teacher’s comments because he was afraid his dads would rethink their decision to adopt him before their final court hearing in December.
“He was so fearful that this could make us think that we don’t want to adopt him,” Louis van Amstel told the Salt Lake Tribune. “That’s definitely not going to happen. But this situation really hurt him. This person really hurt us.”
“We are not letting this go,” said van Amstel in a video posted to social media. “I am so proud of [D.M.’s] school — not only did they let go of the teacher, they said this woman is never going to teach in this school again.”
Deerfield Elementary is about 45 minutes from Salt Lake City’s downtown.
A spokesperson for the Alpine School District said it was taking the case seriously. “We’re committed to having the best employees who care about all children in our schools, whether it be the teacher, the custodian, the secretary or a substitute teacher,” he said to the Salt Lake Tribune. “Obviously, when situations come up like this, we quickly investigate and take appropriate action. That was done in this situation.”
He did not comment on whether the teacher would continue to work in the district.
The district’s non-discrimination policy does not include an explicit mention of sexuality, though it does include gender.
The climate in Utah for LGBTQ people has improved in recent years. The legislature in 2015 made headlines when it passed an antidiscrimination bill in employment and housing, with exceptions in place for religious organizations. In 2017, the state changed a law that banned the “advocacy of homosexuality” in schools. It is also currently considering a ban on “conversion therapy” aimed at changing young people’s sexuality.
However, the anti-discrimination law does not apply to public accommodations — meaning LGBTQ people could still be denied services because of their sexuality. And last year, the Utah attorney general signed an amicus brief arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court should allow workplace discrimination against LGBTQ people.