Teacher Resigns After Instructed to Remove LGBTQ Flag

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A Neosho, Missouri, teacher resigned last week after his school district responded to parents’ complaints of his display of an LGBTQ “pride” flag in his classroom, instructing the teacher to remove it.

“I was then asked to sign a letter that stated I would not discuss human sexuality or my own personal sexuality in the classroom and could have no displays or coursework on those subjects,” John M. Wallis tweeted in a thread Saturday. “This action was the reason for my resignation.”

Wallis, 22, subsequently filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

“There is never a problem when a heterosexual teacher displays pictures of themselves and their spouses in a classroom but I have a flag and all hell breaks loose,” he complained, according to a report Tuesday at the Springfield News-Leader.

The former Neosho Junior High School teacher of speech, theater, and world mythology was hired August 13 and resigned September 1, the report noted.

Wallis, who was raised in town and graduated from Neosho High School, said a parent complained he was “going to teach their child to be gay.”

“I was then instructed to take my flag and signs down,” he wrote on Twitter. “In fact, the use of the pride flag in my classroom was compared to hanging the Confederate flag in my classroom.”

Superintendent Jim Cummins instructed him to remove his LGBTQ flag on display in his classroom, and not to discuss sexuality, after some parents complained to the school district about the display of the flag.

Wallis provided to the news outlet the letter he received from Cummins, who reportedly wrote he was writing to “document” a conversation he had with Wallis on August 31.

The letter reportedly stated:

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.

“There will be no references to sexuality or gender displayed in your classroom,” Cummins then instructed Wallis. “Your instruction and classroom conversations will stay clear of discussions regarding human sexuality and/or sexual preference.”

“Any research or assignments given should not require a topic related to the above,” the superintendent reportedly added.

Wallis continued in his Twitter thread:

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.

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.

He added in an extended thread:

It appears that there is a different set of rules if you are an LGBTQ+ educator. 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.

According to the news report, Wallis has expressed resentment toward his home town of Neosho in the past.

In 2020, the Riverfront Times interviewed him while he was attending Webster University in St. Louis.

In the December article that featured the interview, Wallis said he grew to resent Neosho, claiming he received threats in high school after organizing a Black Lives Matter event in 2016.

Nevertheless, Wallis told the News-Leader he was driven to return home.

“The community and I disagree on a lot of things,” he said. “I have said some disparaging things out of anger in the past, but I came back to this district because I wanted to give back.”

Wallis told the News-Leader that, when he initially removed the “pride” flag from his classroom, students asked questions.

“I answered truthfully while expressing that, if students had a problem with who I was, there were other open classes,” he tweeted. “This led to three or more calls from parents accusing me of pushing my agenda in the classroom.”


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