A gay junior high school teacher in Missouri resigned after he was ordered to take down a Pride flag from his classroom and refrain from discussing gender and sexuality issues in his classroom.
John Wallis, 22, posted to Twitter that he resigned from his position teaching speech, theater, and world mythology at 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 Neosho Junior High School as a young teen, an experience he does not remember fondly. But 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,” Wallis 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 experience for my students.”
For that purpose, he decided to hang a Pride flag in his class along with a sign that read “In This Classroom EVERYONE Is Welcome.” He told the Star he thought he had cleared hanging the Pride flag with the school’s principal and assistant principal before doing so.
“I left that meeting with the understanding that they had advised against it but not instructed me not to,” Wallis said.
However, he was summoned to the principal’s office soon after classes started, where he was told a parent had 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.
Not long after he was asked to sign the letter forbidding him from discussing his “own personal sexuality” or having any “displays or coursework” on those topics.
“Our classrooms cannot become a personal platform for pushing one's personal agenda,” the letter read, portions of which were quoted by the Springfield News-Leader from a copy provided by Wallis.
“This action was the reason for my resignation,” he wrote to Twitter.
Sadly, Wallis is not the first teacher to face hostility from parents and school officials over flying a Pride flag in class.
Last month, Kristin Pitzen, a teacher in Orange County, California, was removed from her classroom pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation by the Newport Mesa Unified School District after she posted a video where she laughing recalled how she had removed the American flag from her classroom and instructed a student to cite the pledge of allegiance to the Pride flag she had displayed instead.
And last year, Jennifer Leja, a bisexual teacher in Nevada, decorated her classroom in rainbow colors after she was told she couldn’t fly a Pride flag in her classroom because it is a form of political speech.
“If anybody asks, I just really like rainbows,” she said in the TikTok post which has since gone viral. “Rainbows aren’t political, not at all. Rainbows are just colorful and fun.”
In an interview last year with the Riverfront Times Wallis said he had grown to resent his deeply conservative hometown, and his progressive political views clashed with the conservative views of his family and fellow townsfolk. He took particular exception to his fellow student’s responses to the George Floyd death and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests that swept the nation. His opinion of his town softened since then, a point he made clear recently.
“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 school district said they could not comment due to the confidentiality of personnel matters.