A gay teacher in Ohio, United States, has spoken out after being fired for giving Pride bracelets to students, saying: “There is room at the table for everyone”.
According to NBC15 News, Jay Bowman, who has worked as a teacher for 30 years, was wearing a rainbow-coloured Pride bracelet when several students asked about it.
Speaking in an interview, Bowman said: “If a kid has questions, if a kid wants honesty, I don’t think I should be forbidden from providing that.
“I don’t try to recruit anyone. The parents are responsible for the kids. The parents are the ones who need to teach their kids right and wrong.
“I think the reaction to my violation when compared to other instances in the school where certain things are tolerated was unfair.”
He added: “My catchphrase has become, ‘There is room at the table for everyone,’ and there is.”
The school district argued that Bowman broke school policies by discussing “political” and “personal” beliefs with students, as well as giving a student a Pride bracelet.
“Our board policies restrict staff from discussing with students certain subjects, including political, religious and personal beliefs,” the school district said in a statement.
“This past week, we received reports with specific concerns about possible violations of those policies by a substitute teacher in the district.
“As a result of his violation of board policies, the district decided his services as a substitute would no longer be utilised. While we recognise there are diverse points of view on this matter, this policy exists for the purpose of ensuring all students feel comfortable in the classroom.”
NBC15 News reported that some community members will ask the “school board to reconsider its policies” at a board meeting on 11 April.
The news comes as Florida passed its infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill on Monday (28 March), which will effectively outlaw the discussion of LGBT+ topics in classrooms.
The bill, which has faced fierce criticism not only from LGBT+ activists, but from US president Joe Biden, also mandates that school staff must out students to their potentially unsupportive families. The only exception is “if a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect”.
Now that it has been signed, the bill will come into effect on 1 July 2022.
Following the signing of the bill, Amit Paley, CEO of LGBT+ charity The Trevor Project, said in a statement: “LGBTQ youth in Florida deserve better. They deserve to see their history, their families, and themselves reflected in the classroom.
“While I am saddened to see this harmful bill signed into law, I am inspired by the outpouring of support for LGBTQ students we have seen from parents, teachers, celebrities, and their peers.
“Social support is vital for suicide prevention, and I want to remind LGBTQ youth in Florida and across the country that you are not alone.”