Standing strong: Kansas teacher won’t resign after anti-gay parents freak out over anti-bullying film
A Kansas schoolteacher says he has changed his mind about resigning after showing a graphic anti-bullying short film to his history class, which led to vociferous complaints from parents.
The Wichita Eagle reported that Tom Leahy, a teacher at Conway Springs Middle School, was expected to hand in his resignation after showing Love Is All You Need? to three eighth-grade history classes (which would normally contain children aged 13 to 14). The 19-minute satirical film depicts a society in which same-sex relationships are conventional and a young girl is picked on for being heterosexual. The film, directed by Kim Rocco Shields and produced in 2011, culminates in the fictional protagonist killing herself.
Leahy has been on leave since 21 October and was expected to resign at a Conway Springs school board meeting on 9 November. Yesterday, he cancelled a joint press conference with the school superintendent and said he did not plan to resign . He told the Eagle: “There’s a lot of people who don’t want me to give up on this. People I don’t even know … I’d like to have the chance to tell [the school board] my side of things.”
Leahy said he decided to show the film after some of his students demonstrated disturbing anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender behaviour during a history class exercise in which different groups were asked to draw up a bill of rights for their fictional “colony”. He said: “I was expecting fairly positive kinds of colonies … But it just kind of got twisted around … Then the issue of gay v straight came up, and a lot of them were not allowing gays into their colony and stuff like that … There were some hard feelings. Kids were getting upset.”
Leahy said he did not get permission from his school principal to show the film, or send permission slips to parents. According to Leahy, parents’ complaints were made to the school principal and superintendent, focusing on the graphic nature of the film’s ending and a scene emphasising the Catholic church’s inflexibility.
On being contacted by the Eagle, superintendent Clay Murphy said he couldn’t comment directly because it was a personnel matter.
“In these situations, there’s no winners,” he said. “We all lose. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is. You’ve got two divided sides, and you can’t please everybody.”