Tom Leahy, who teaches social studies at the Conway Springs Middle School in Kansas, admits he made some mistakes.
He showed teens a film depicting suicide. He showed teens a film that specifically called out the Catholic Church for criticism. He didn’t give them warning or a chance to opt out, and didn’t have their parents’ permission to show the film.
He made some mistakes because he was deeply disturbed by the bullying and homophobic culture he was witnessing in his class of eighth graders.
As he sought to drive home the point, he cut some corners, and now that’s landed him in trouble.
Here’s why he was so stressed to impact the point of view of his kids: a recent social studies exercise had gone horrifically wrong. He had split the students into groups and told them that they were each a fictional colony. They were to develop their own Bill of Rights, and lay out the principles on which to build their societies.
He expected kindness and fairness.
What he got was homophobia.
At least one of the colonies declared it would ostracize LGBT people and reject them from their world. Leahy saw some deep, hurt reactions from other students, and that motivated him to want to change attitudes immediately.
So he showed them all the viral video film “Love Is All You Need” by Kim Rocco Shields.
In the film, the world is reversed. Heterosexuals are the ones who are bullied and persecuted. The film is no holds barred in its depiction of the damage of bullying.
“I didn’t want just a dorky little film, I wanted something that was important, something that was serious,” Leahy told the Witchita Eagle. “So that’s the one I came up with. I’m not saying what I did was very smart. It really wasn’t. But I’m a spur-of-the-moment kind of guy, and it seemed right at the time.”