Education

Kansas Teacher Who Showed Anti-Bullying Video Returns To School After Outcry

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A Kansas high school teacher who was asked to resign after showing his students an anti-bullying video has received an outpouring of support from LGBT organizations — and ended up returning to his classroom on Monday.

Tom Leahy, a social studies teacher in the Conway Springs school district, showed a video called “Love Is All You Need” to his students after a class project revealed some anti-LGBT biases among students. When students were asked to create colonies and decide who would be let into them, some of them said they didn’t want to allow gay people into their colonies. In an effort to teach acceptance of LGBT people, Leahy decided to show the video, which is about a world in which people are bullied for their heterosexuality:

Parents quickly became upset that Leahy showed the video, during which a bullied teen kills herself. “There are people who don’t want their children in my classroom … I thought that I’d take a little time off and then come back, and people would cool their heels and everything would be better. That didn’t happen,” Leahy explained in an interview with The Wichita Eagle.

The school reportedly asked Leahy to resign, which he says he initially intended to do. But he changed his mind after receiving a flood of support from LGBT organizations.

The Tyler Clementi Foundation, named after a gay teenager who jumped off the George Washington Bridge following cyber-bullying by roommates, launched a petition on Leahy’s behalf. The foundation’s petition to save his job has gained 249 signatures, while a local petition in support of the teacher has gained almost 3,000. The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network has also stood up for Leahy, with its co-founder Liz Hamor saying to The Wichita Eagle, “What kind of message does calling for Mr. Leahy’s resignation send to other educators who are trying to ensure their schools are safe for LGBT students and teach respect for all?”

Tom Leahy

Tom Leahy

CREDIT: Courtesy of Conway Springs school district

According to The Wichita Eagle, Leahy returned to his classroom on Monday after a 10-day leave of absence.

It isn’t unusual for teachers to pay a professional price for teaching acceptance of LGBT students. In June, a North Carolina elementary teacher dealt with outcry from parents after reading a book about two kings who fell in love, called “King & King.” Parents sued a school in 2006 after a teacher read the same book. The teacher, Omar Currie, who is gay, resigned after he felt unsupported by the administration. He said he chose to read the book after he witnessed repeated incidents of students being bullied with homophobic remarks. LGBT teachers themselves, whether or not they are out to school staff and parents, are often wary of how they deal with anti-LGBT bullying out of fear they will provoke similar controversies.