Bowman told the outlet that he should be able to answer questions if a student has them. “If a kid wants honesty, I don’t think I should be forbidden from providing that,” he stated. In this case, Bowman says he told students that the group behind the bracelet, First Capital Pride, provided resources for teens who may be living with mental health distress, suicidal ideation, or need extra support via community events and inclusion efforts.
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“When approached by students who expressed a certain point of view,” Bowman recalled to the Scioto Valley Guardian. “I happily slid the band off my arm, offered it to the student, and explained that First Capital Pride offered support groups for teens who may be struggling, are suicidal, are ostracized, and need support.”
Now, Bowman, who was working as a substitute teacher in the Huntington Local School District, is no longer teaching in the area. According to Superintendent Peter Ruby, the district made the decision after they received reports about the Pride bracelet situation.
“While we recognize there are diverse points of view on this matter,” Ruby said in a statement to WSYX. “This policy exists for the purpose of ensuring all students feel comfortable in the classroom.”
In speaking to CNN, Ruby alleged Bowman spoke to the class about “political and religious” topics in addition to LGBTQ+ issues, but it’s unclear what those were. The outlet asked if the district considers LGBTQ+ issues to be religious or political, and Ruby again said Bowman spoke about religious and political topics in addition to queer ones, but it’s again unclear what those were specifically.
Mind you, there’s no valid difference in point of view about LGBTQ+ rights. People are either inclusive or they’re not, hateful or not, and discriminatory or not. From what Bowman’s shared, it seems talking about youth resources is entirely reasonable and helpful for students in the classroom or those who may have a friend or family member in need. It’s also worth stressing again that these are high schoolers, not very young children who may not understand mental health or suicide, for example.
According to Ruby, the school board believes “student-led expression is permitted” as long as it doesn’t interfere with education. But according to Bowman, students asked about his bracelet. So what’s he supposed to do? Lie? Shrug his shoulders? Keep a potentially life-saving resource a secret? Come on.
Bowman stressed to the outlet that he wasn’t trying to “recruit” anyone and felt the decision to let him go was “unfair.” He also shared that in his decades-long teaching career, he’s had at least 40 former students and athletes come out to him. Even in a conservative area, that’s not a real surprise.
Why? Because young people (or those young people later in life) found an openly queer person to talk to and relate to, so they felt safe and opened up. Nothing to do with grooming or inappropriate discussions. Just safety and feeling seen and supported.
Of course, as Daily Kos has covered over the years, a number of openly LGBTQ+ teachers and allies have come under fire for simply being themselves. A professor of more than 40 years says he was fired after bringing an openly gay speaker into his college classroom. A Missouri teacher says they felt they had to resign after the district asked them to remove the Pride flag from their public school classroom. A teacher said they were fired after being outed in their mother’s obituary. A volleyball coach says they were forced to resign over their sexuality.
Sadly, the list goes on and legislation like the Don’t Say Gay law is only making it harder and harder for students and teachers alike.
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