Missouri teacher John Wallis resigned last week after his school district told him to take down a Pride flag in his classroom following complaints from parents.
Wallis taught speech, theatre, and world mythology at Neosho Junior High School, reported The Springfield News-Leader.
On Twitter, Wallis explained what happened and why he resigned.
“At the beginning of the school year, I had two signs above my whiteboards that read ‘In This Classroom EVERYONE is Welcome’ and an LGBTQ+ pride flag on my bookshelf,” Wallis wrote. “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.”
Wallis said that a parent complained that he was “going to teach their child to be gay.” He was told to take down the flag and sign.
“In fact, the use of the pride flag in my classroom was compared to hanging the Confederate flag in my classroom,” Wallis wrote.
When he took the flag and boards down, students asked why. Wallis said he was honest and told the class if they had a problem with who he was there were other classes they could take.
“This led to three or more calls from parents accusing me of pushing my agenda in the classroom,” Wallis wrote.
In a statement sent to The Springfield News-Leader, Superintendent Jim Cummins said, “As per all personnel matters, there is a limited amount of information that is allowed to be shared by the school district.”
Cummins said Wallis resigned by letter. The letter read that Wallis was looking to pursue a different career.
Wallis told the paper that he was sent a letter from Cummins and asked to read it and sign it.
A copy presented to The Springfield News-Leader read, “Our classrooms cannot become a personal platform for pushing one's personal agenda. Your position in the Neosho School District is to teach speech and drama classes. You were hired because we believe you were the best candidate to do such.
“However, if you are unable to present the curriculum in a manner that keeps your personal agenda on sexuality out of your narrative and the classroom discussions, we will ultimately terminate your employment.”
Instructions in the letter included: "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; and any research or assignments given should not require a topic related to the above.”
Wallis submitted a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, according to The Springfield News-Leader.
“It appears that there is a different set of rules if you are an LGBTQ+ educator,” Wallis wrote on Twitter. “Neosho has no mention of gender identity or sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy, and that is disconcerting enough. Couple that with a policy banning anything that expresses part of me in the classroom, and it makes for a hostile work environment.”