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Gay principal suing for discrimination after he was monitored for “indoctrination” & then fired

Jeff Peterson
Jeff Peterson Photo: Screenshot

A Wisconsin school principal has filed a discrimination complaint with the state, claiming that conservative school board members have waged a “public and coordinated” campaign against him because he is gay.

As Wisconsin Public Radio reports, the Raymond School Board voted 4–1 during a closed session on September 27 to consider non-renewal of Raymond School Principal Jeff Peterson’s contract, which is up in 2025. The following day, Peterson was escorted from the school by Superintendent Mike Garvey and two sheriff’s deputies. In a hand-delivered letter, Peterson was informed that he was being put on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave while the district investigates allegations that he “engaged in misconduct.” The letter did not specify what type of “misconduct” Peterson was accused of or by whom.

On September 29, Peterson filed the complaint against the Raymond Board of Education and the Raymond School District with the State Department of Workforce Development’s Equal Rights Division.

According to Wisconsin Public Radio, Peterson was hired as principal of the K­­–8 elementary school in July 2021. In his complaint, he alleges that during his first board meeting as principal, “members of the public directed ‘anti-gay’ comments towards” him while members of the board “took no action to curtail the comments.”

Peterson also alleges that in August 2021 the district cancelled his partner’s health insurance coverage without notice. After he inquired about the cancellations, Peterson claims he was told that “same sex partners cannot be included on family policies for any reason. That is policy and law.”

The complaint also alleges that Raymond School Board President Audrey Kostuch and board member Gwen Keller “initiated a public and coordinated anti-gay attack across the district.” In 2022, Keller campaigned in part on removing certain “offensive” material from Raymond School’s library. Following her election, the conservative group Convention of States Action, which supported Keller’s campaign, issued a press release identifying an episode of the PBS cartoon Arthur featuring a gay wedding as an example of material Keller felt was inappropriate for elementary school students.

Peterson claims that in June 2023, Kostuch insisted that he consider whether middle school girls were menstruating when dolling out punishments for bad behavior and instructed him to ask female students “whether it was their time of the month.” The complaint characterizes that request as a “trap” intended to “sabotage” Peterson by forcing him to bring up topics with students “that can be considered sexualization.”

Peterson’s complaint also alleges that the board installed Garvey as superintendent “to enforce its political agenda.” Peterson claims that in March 2023, Garvey demanded that another adult be present when Peterson taught Human Growth and Development to fifth-grade boys to ensure that “he didn’t indoctrinate the students.”

The complaint accuses the Raymond Board of Education and the Raymond School District of violating Wisconsin’s Fair Employment Act by discriminating against Peterson on the basis of his sexual orientation and gender.

“If Mr. Peterson wasn’t gay, then this discrimination from the board would not be happening. And we don’t think he would be non-renewed,” Peterson’s attorney, Ben Hitchcock Cross, told reporters following the September 27 board meeting.

According to the Racine County Eye, Peterson remains popular with Raymond School parents and staff. Many showed up outside the September 27 meeting to show their support.

Parent Mitchell Berman told WPR that he agrees “100 percent” that conservatives on the school board have targeted Peterson because of his sexual orientation.

“These are the people who are banning the books, who are concerned about a PBS cartoon being shown,” he said.

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