An openly gay junior high teacher in Missouri has resigned from his position after being ordered to take down a Pride flag from his classroom and refrain from discussing gender or sexuality issues.
John Wallis, 22, posted to Twitter that he left Neosho Junior High School in Neosho after administrators made him sign a letter promising not to discuss “human sexuality” or his “own sexuality in the classroom and could have no displays or coursework on those subjects.”
Wallis grew up in Neosho and attended the junior high as a young teen, but he does not fondly remember experience. However, he decided to return to give back to the community as an out teacher.
“I didn’t have any teachers that were openly accepting of LGBTQ+ students,” he told The Kansas City Star. “And so for me, as an out educator in southwest Missouri, I know what my experience was and I didn’t want that to be the same experiences for my students.”
For that purpose, Wallis hung up two signs above his white board that read “Everyone is Welcome Here” with the background having the progressive Pride flag, and another rainbow flag sat on the bookshelf.
According to the Riverfront Times, although flags and signs are not against the school’s policy, Wallis was advised against putting up the decorations, but was not explicitly told he couldn’t. He says he never acknowledged the fact that he is gay to his students unless they personally asked him.
Instead, he told the kids that the room represented pieces of himself and that the room was a safe space for students to come to him about any issues they may face. The signs were meant to show that everyone was respected in his classroom, no matter what they believe.
Unfortunately, Wallis was summoned to the principal’s office shortly after classes started, where he was told that a parent complained.
“A parent called last week to complain that I was going to teach their child to be gay,” Wallis wrote to his Twitter, adding the principal told him hanging a Pride flag was comparable to hanging a confederate flag.
When students queried Wallis about the removal of the flag and sign, he said he “answered truthfully” and told them if any of them “had a problem” with who he was “there were other open classes.” His honesty resulted in multiple calls from parents accusing him of pushing his agenda on the students.
Being asked to sign a letter forbidding him to discuss his sexuality or have displays or coursework on those topics was the last straw for Wallis, which ultimately led to his resigning.
“I want people to know that I’m not doing this because I hate Neosho,” Wallis told the Star. “I’m doing this because we need to have policies in place, especially for public education that supports all of our students and all of our educators.”
The Neosho school is district is not commenting due to the confidentiality of personnel matters.