A gay teacher in Ohio has been fired after giving out LGBTQ Pride bracelets to students.
While substitute teaching for the Huntington Local School District, a few students asked Jay Bowman about his rainbow bracelet from First Capital PRIDE, an Ohio LGBTQ advocacy organization. He told the inquiring students about it and then gave them each a bracelet.
The school fired him, saying he violated policy.
In a statement, superintendent Peter Ruby claimed the school is “committed to maintaining a welcoming and inclusive community for our students, teachers and staff.”
Yet it also said that “Board policies restrict staff from discussing with students certain subjects, including political, religious, and personal beliefs” and that Bowman violated these policies “by speaking to students about political and religious topics, as well as distributing bracelets.”
“While we recognize there are diverse points of view on this matter, this policy exists for the purpose of ensuring all students feel comfortable in the classroom,” the statement concluded.
Bowman believes the incident has shined a light on some much needed change in the community.
“If a kid has questions, if a kid wants honesty, I don’t think I should be forbidden from providing that,” he told KOMO News.
He added, “I think the reaction to my violation when compared to other instances in the school where certain things are tolerated was unfair. Huntington Township is, by and large, a conservative area and human rights are not a foreign entity at all but it is outside the comfort level of a lot of people.”
Some students have shown solidarity with Bowman by wearing the bracelets and displaying Pride artwork at school. But other people at the school have torn down the artwork, even shoving one flyer declaring “Love is Love” into a urinal.
Some people in the community who are standing with Bowman plan to broach the topic at the next board meeting and ask the school to change its policies.
“I know I’ve opened a can of worms, and I know I’ve started a discussion,” Bowman said, “and I trust that the members of this community know that I did that with no ill intent.”
Bowman has taught for thirty years.
“Huntington is my home. It is where I got my first teaching job. It is everything to me. It just is. I love this community. I love this school.”
“I was taught that God doesn’t make junk. I am not junk, I am Jay.”