MO district asks gay teacher not to discuss sex, he says

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John Wallis resigned his teaching post at Neosho Junior High School after saying he was asked to sign a letter saying he would not discuss his own sexuality in his class.

Jean Wallis

John Wallis hung the pride flag in his classroom at Neosho Junior High School, along with a sign saying “everyone is welcome”, in the hope that students know they can always ask him. help.

“In the first week, almost 10 students came to me and personally thanked me because they wouldn’t know where to go if they hadn’t seen this flag,” Wallis told The Star by phone. Tuesday.

But after parents complained about the flag and after Wallis – a professor of discourse and debate, drama and world mythology – was asked to sign a letter declaring that he would not discuss his sexuality with his students, Wallis has resigned from his teaching post at Neosho. He posted a thread on Twitter detailing what happened. Wallis said having to sign the letter was the reason for his resignation.

The Neosho School District said it was limited in the information it could provide in a personnel matter.

Superintendent Jim R. Cummins said in a statement that Wallis was hired on August 13 and tendered his resignation on September 1st.

Wallis, 22, who grew up in Neosho and attended college, said he himself began to question his sexuality when he was a student there. He wasn’t openly gay until his last year of college.

“I had no teacher who openly accepted LGBTQ + students,” Wallis said. “And so for me, as an outside educator in Southwest Missouri, I know what my experience has been and I didn’t want it to be the same for my students.”

Shortly after being hired, Wallis said he met the principal and vice-principal of his school and asked for their permission to put up the pride flag and the sign that read, “In this class, EVERYTHING. THE WORLD is welcome ”.

“I left this meeting with the understanding that they had advised against it but had not asked me not to,” Wallis said.

So he placed the flag on a shelf in his classroom and hung the sign on the whiteboard. It was important to him, he said, and he felt it was proven when students who identified as LGBTQ came to see him in private.

“It specifically showed me that my intention with the flag was actually happening, that the students could see that I’m a safe person to come,” Wallis said. “It spoke to me a lot so that they could come and see me and say that. It meant I was doing what I intended to do.

It was during the first week of school when Wallis was called to the main school office. A parent complained to the school about the sign and the flag. The parent reportedly said Wallis was going to teach his child to be gay, Wallis said. He took the flag and signed it down. The next day at school, his students asked him why.

He told them that he had been asked to remove them and that the flag and sign did not represent what he would teach in his class.

“But I went on to say, ‘If you have a problem with the flag that represents me, or students who identify as LGBTQ +, then you can probably find a different class,” “Wallis said. “This prompted the parents to call the superintendent more, and I had to meet the superintendent the next day. ”

During the meeting, Wallis said he was asked to sign the letter. The school district declined to comment.

Wallis shared the letter with The Star, which reads:

“If you are not able to present the program in a way that keeps your personal agenda on sexuality out of your narrative and class discussions, eventually we will terminate your employment.” The letter also stated that Wallis would have no reference to the sexuality or gender displayed in his classroom.

“The problem I have with that, obviously, is that it’s specific to me, and as an openly gay man it seems a bit discriminatory because if you’re a straight teacher you can talk about your spouse, of your kids, you can have a picture of your family in the classroom, but I have a flag and all of a sudden there’s a problem. You know, that didn’t make sense, “Wallis said .

Since his resignation, Wallis has received messages of support. Minority Leader of the Missouri House Crystal Quade tweeted to Wallis thanking him for the dedication to the children. Wallis said he filed a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

“I want people to know I’m not doing this because I hate Neosho,” Wallis said. “I’m doing this because we need to have policies in place, especially for public education that support all of our students and all of our educators.”

This story was originally published September 8, 2021 at 3:16 pm.

Kansas City Star Stories

I am a current affairs reporter who also covers race and equity issues. I am also bilingual, Spanish being my mother tongue.



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