NEOSHO, Mo. (AP) — A teacher said he resigned from a Missouri junior high school after he was told to remove a gay pride flag from his classroom and to sign a letter saying he would not discuss human sexuality or gender with his students.
John Wallis, 22, said he hung the flag and a sign that said “In This Classroom, EVERYONE Is Welcome” so his students at Neosho Junior High in southwest Missouri would know they could come to him for help, The Kansas City Star reported.
Superintendent Jim Cummins said in a statement that he could not discuss personnel matters. He said Wallis, a theater, world mythology and speech and debate teacher, was hired Aug. 13 and resigned Sept. 1.
Wallis said the school principal and assistant principal initially advised him against displaying the items but did not prohibit it. But he took the flag and sign down after he was told a parent complained.
When students asked why the flag and sign were removed, he told them he was asked to take them down and that the flag did not represent what he would teach in his classes.
“But I followed it up by saying, ‘If you have a problem with the flag representing me, or students who identify as LGBTQ+, then you can probably find a different class,’” said Wallis. He said that prompted more complaints from parents.
He was then asked to sign a letter saying he would be fired if he could not teach his curriculum without keeping his “personal agenda on sexuality” out of the classroom. The letter also prohibited Wallis from displaying any references to sexuality or gender in his classroom.
Wallis said he’s filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
“The problem I have with it, obviously, is that it’s specific to me, and as an openly gay man that seems a bit discriminatory because if you’re a straight teacher, you can talk about your spouse, your kids, you can have a picture of your family in the classroom, but I have a flag and then all of a sudden there’s a problem. You know, it didn’t make any sense,” Wallis said.