Friday, September 10, 2021

Neosho R-5: We not only don't discriminate against gays, we don't discriminate against anybody

With the resignation of speech and drama teacher John M. Wallis after he was told to remove a pride flag from his classroom making the national news, the district released a statement today saying it does not discriminate against anyone, including those who are gay, such as Wallis.

Wallis shared a letter with the Springfield News-Leader that he received from Superintendent Jim Cummins, which documented a meeting they had, gave Wallis instructions on how to conduct his classroom and warned him that he could be fired if he did not follow those instructions.

"However, if you are unable to present the curriculum in a manner that keeps your personal agenda on sexuality out of your narrative and the classroom discussions, we will ultimately terminate your employment."

The letter concluded with the following instructions:

"There will be no references to sexuality or gender displayed in your classroom;"
"Your instruction and classroom conversations will stay clear of discussions regarding human sexuality and/or sexual preference;" and
"Any research or assignments given should not require a topic related to the above."

Wallis claims he felt he was being targeted because he is an openly gay man, according to the News Leader article.

The Neosho R-5 statement is printed below:

NSD Community,

Over the past week, a lot has been said about Neosho School District on all fronts. We cannot control what others say about us or our intentions, however, we would be doing Wildcat Nation a disservice by not addressing what we can.

A few years ago, the phrase “All means all” came into play at NSD and we meant it. The phrase stemmed organically from a focus goal; to provide a physically and emotionally safe learning and working environment.

Since that goal was created, people within this district have put their all into making it a reality. We have invested in a Director of Counseling Services, a school social worker, and onsite professionally licensed counselors. Our counseling team has a robust approach to student risk assessment and a true passion for not letting a student fall through the cracks.

A focus on Trauma Informed Schools was put into place with a committee made up of school personnel that represent a variety of walks of life, and Trauma Informed Schools training for the NSD team is in the works. 

Discussions have been had at an administrative level about how we reach out and be inclusive to all of our diversity, including research into the creation of an internal diversity board. Extracurricular activities have been created and led by our team members in an effort to give everyone an opportunity for camaraderie and community.

Our District discrimination policy has been called into question because it does not specifically list LGBTQ+ employees. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website, discrimination based upon sex (which is in our policy) also includes sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy. 

Our practice is to NOT discriminate against anybody regardless of whether or not they are part of a protected class. We are proud of the diversity we have within our team and truly believe that all students deserve to see a likeness among their teachers and leadership.

Lastly, it has been our practice for many years to ensure that what is being developed and taught by NSD teachers reflects the standards as set forth by our state and local governing bodies. Whether it be related to religion, politics, or any other topic that is outside of the adopted curriculum, school personnel are not permitted to teach on those matters. This is an important element of keeping all students emotionally safe.

To the parents of NSD, thank you for trusting us with your children. To the NSD Team, thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to meet those children where they are, love them, and teach them.

Without a doubt, there is work to be done and continual learning that needs to happen, but we will always strive to make NSD a safe place for all students and all team members, because “all means all.”
Should you have questions about any of our policies or practices for the safety of our team members or students, please reach out to us.

Neosho School District


Anonymous said...

KUDOS to the Neosho School District!

Anonymous said...

I may be looking at this too simplistically. Regardless of many of the points in this discussion doesn’t it boil down to if an employer makes a professional request of an employee and the employee chooses not to comply then they are subject to reprimand and/or termination. I have had employers over my life who made requests I certainly disagreed with, however; I could stand on my conviction and possibly be terminated or I could comply and avoid termination. I’ve done both. My choice. My consequences.