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A school pulled 2 students from a lesbian teacher’s class. Their parents wanted a straight teacher.

Students in a class
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A Montana school board’s vote to remove two students from a lesbian elementary school teacher’s class because their parents wanted them to have a straight teacher has sparked controversy in the community.

As local paper The Missoulian reported, during a “getting to know you” activity early in the school year, a teacher at Frenchtown Intermediate School in Frenchtown, Montana, mentioned that she has a wife in response to a student’s question about a photo.

Subsequently, the parents of two students in the teacher’s class requested to have their children transferred to a straight teacher’s class. In September, the Frenchtown School District board held two closed-door meetings—per a Montana privacy law—during which they considered the matter.

Unlike other states in recent years, Montana lawmakers have not passed a statewide “Don’t Say Gay” law restricting how and when subjects related to sexuality and gender identity can be addressed in classrooms. However, state law does require schools to provide parents with advance notice of any LGBTQ+-related curricula, allowing parents to opt their children out.

While Superintendent Les Meyer recommended that the board not reassign the students, during a September 25 meeting, a motion not to transfer the students failed by a 3–2 vote, with two board trustees absent. One trustee, Amanda Hansen, argued that the board needed to “advocate for the children” and described the teacher as a “grown woman” making “adult choices,” according to the Missoulian.

Racquel Rausch, whose daughter is in the teacher’s class, described the teacher as “warm and caring.”

“We felt like she was committed to the education of our child,” Rausch said. “We had no idea of her sexual orientation, and it wouldn’t matter to us.”

“I want my daughter to be able to be in a world where she can correct her own biases and form her own opinions and support others,” she added. “The board’s decision essentially robbed her of that.”

Rausch is one of several parents who, alongside Frenchtown alumni and current and former teachers, blasted the board during public comment at meetings in October and November. One teacher called the board’s decision “hasty and hostile.” Another district employee said she no longer felt supported and feared for her job.

Board chair Shiloh Lucier faced particularly harsh criticism, with current and former teachers testifying that she has created an environment that stifles educators.

“Teachers are concerned that the rights of their colleagues in public forum and in their private lives are being attacked,” Frenchtown Education Association president Jim Stanicar read from a prepared statement at the November 21 meeting. “Many are concerned that an administrative team that is respected and viewed as an ally are themselves being harassed and attacked for simply doing the job they were hired to do. Some even worry about retribution for perceived personal slights.”

In his statement, Stanicar said that Lucier was largely responsible for a “crisis of morale” among Frenchtown educators and issued a unanimous no-confidence vote against the chair.

According to the Missoulian, Lucier repeatedly interrupted speakers and stopped public comment, citing state law that prevents personnel matters from being discussed unless they’re on a meeting’s agenda.

Frustrated with the board’s behavior, a group of parents and educators organized by Tammy Nabozney, the parent of two Frenchtown alumni, wrote letters calling for Lucier’s resignation.

“This is just not a fight that Frenchtown needs to be in right now,” Nabozney said. “There are so many other things that we could be focused on. Why would they put us in this position?”

Rausch, meanwhile, has filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. She also started an online petition in October to protect teachers’ and students’ right to express their sexual orientation openly.

“Public education is for all. I want a safe place for my children to grow and learn,” she said. “We need to look at what’s failing our children, because that’s what’s important, first and foremost — how can we build a better community and a school system that’s inclusive of all?”

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