Missouri Teacher Quits, Files for Discrimination After Being Told to Remove LGBTQ Flag in the Classroom

Photo: (Photo : FERENC ISZA/AFP via Getty Images)

Missouri teacher John Wallis quit his job at the Neosho Junior High after school administrators told him to remove the LGBTQ Pride flag in his classroom and was threatened with termination if he didn't comply.

Wallis, 22, who taught speech and drama, was also informed that some parents complained about his "personal agenda" as they were concerned that he could influence his students to become gay. The school administrators asked the Missouri teacher to sign a waiver agreeing to never "discuss human sexuality" or his own sexuality in the classroom.

While Wallis signed the letter and removed the Pride flag and other LGBTQ signs, he resigned from his job a few days later. He then filed a civil rights discrimination lawsuit against Neosho Junior High with the Department of Education.

In a statement, Wallis said that the school administrators sided with the "bigotry of the parents" and imposed a "different set of rules" for LGBTQ educators versus heterosexual teachers. He said that he sought permission to display the flag. While he was advised against doing so, he did not take this as an instruction not to put up the flag.

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Not a Political Issue

The administrators of Neosho Junior High met with Wallis in August to discuss the flag and inform him not to push his political issues. However, Wallis believes that this is not political but a "human rights issue."

Students later asked the Missouri teacher about the missing flag, and he told them of the school's order. Wallis said that before he met with the officials, at least ten kids had come up to him to thank him for the flag since they didn't know who to talk to about issues surrounding the LGBTQ community.

"They instantly knew that my classroom was an environment where they could learn and where they could feel safe," Wallis told NBC News.

Though the Missouri teacher resigned, he originally planned to stay on until September 30. Yet in the first week of September, the school said that his replacement was ready to take over and gave him until the end of the day to pack up his stuff.

Superintendent Jim R. Cummins declined to comment on Wallis' case except to confirm that he was hired in mid-August and filed his resignation on September 1.

 Support for Students of All Orientation

Wallis told Kansas City Star that he was once a closeted high school student in the same school who didn't have any teachers who accepted openly gay students. He didn't want his students to go through the same experience and felt that he was doing the best thing for them when the students privately approached him that they identify as LGBTQ.

The Missouri teacher's fight against discrimination has the support of the state's House Minority Leader, Crystal Quade, who thanked Wallis on Twitter for his dedication to the students of all orientations. Wallis said his lawsuit isn't to get back at the school but to ensure that policies are in place, especially for public school teachers who support all types of students.

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