A Gay Dad Sounds Off About the Kansas Teacher Who is Getting Fired for Fighting Homophobia

kansas teacher evol equal

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 did not give them warning, a chance to opt out, and he did not have their parents’ permission to show the film.

He made some mistakes because he was deeply disturbed by the bullying and homophobic culture he saw evidenced by his eighth graders. As he sought to drive home the point, he cut some corners, which have now landed him in trouble.

Here is 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 which the world is reversed and it is heterosexuals who are the 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. 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,” Leahy told the Witchita Eagle.

Now Leahy has been removed from the classroom, and awaits a school board meeting on November 9th, where he is being asked to offer his resignation. They are expected to take it. Here is my letter to him, and to the board, hoping those events don’t take place:

Dear Mr. Leahy and members of the Conway Springs School Board,

Mr. Leahy, you must not resign. Dear board members, you must not allow him to do so. Whatever problem you think you are fixing by taking this action is miniscule compared to the problem you are creating.

You are letting the bullies win.

No, I am not calling parents, who want to approve of graphic material before it is shown to their kids, “bullies.” They are due an apology, and a promise that such action will not take place again.

They were not the bullies that Mr. Leahy was fighting, however. He was going up against the principles of judgment, intolerance, ostracism and degradation. He was addressing a disease that is evidenced in your population of kids. While his choices were not well thought out, the harm he was seeking to prevent should be a much higher priority.

I am the gay dad of two seventh graders. The colony exercise that took place, in which a mob had declared they would reject their dad from the world, would have devastated and shamed them. They would have suffered in silence, but the harm would go deep.

So too, was the harm felt by a number of your LGBT students. They, in various stages of self awareness, are also likely hidden from you. That does not mean you are free to cease protecting them, it means you have even a greater responsibility to do so.

I am sure you found that the suicide of the lead character, in the film Mr. Leahy showed, disturbing. What is more disturbing is that the spirit of who she represents IS real, and in your population. She is my kid. She is the LGBT kid. She is every child that does not fit the mob mentality “norm.” By your inaction, and condemning of Mr. Leahy for his attempts to reach these kids and defend them, you are signaling for them to listen to their darker instincts. You are inspiring them to hide, to self-harm and even kill themselves.

Did you ask parental permission to do THAT?

Mr. Leahy, I don’t know what pressure you are under to resign, but you must resist it. What you did in showing the film at risk to yourself was heroic.

Your job is incomplete however. Your community has diverted the topic from homophobia to parental notification procedures. You need to right that course, the conversations need to be had, and rectification measures need to be taken. The real lesson still needs to be learned.

If not, the film you showed will not be just a conversation starter, it will be a prophesy. Your sacrifice will have been for nothing.

Sign the petition here.  Conway School District contacts are here.

UPDATE: Thanks to the strong support he has received, Tom Leahy this afternoon decided to NOT resign willingly. The action now will be up to the school board.

Photo: Flickr/CIMIC Center

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About robw77

A single gay dad who cares. His story can be read here: http://www.imagaysingleparent.com/2013/02/02/rob/ and here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/31/rob-watson-gay-family_n_4689661.html
This entry was posted in Family, Hatred, News, Prejudice and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to A Gay Dad Sounds Off About the Kansas Teacher Who is Getting Fired for Fighting Homophobia

  1. kzottarelli says:

    Absolutely perfect letter, I hope Mr. Leahy does not resign and the much needed voice of this brave teacher continues to be heard.

  2. Joy says:

    When my daughter was in 9th grade her school also showed this movie. They didn’t tell the parents either. They also immediately dismissed the students to their next class without time to discuss what they’ve seen or even decompress after the extreme emotions of the movie.

    On the ride home from school she kept talking about it, but since I had no idea what she was seeing I didn’t really know how to respond. I’ve long been a supporter of LGBT rights and I’ve raised my children to also support the rights of all humans. She wasn’t traumatized by the gay message, but by the suicide at the end.

    I wrote a letter to the principal. Not to complain about the message, but to complain about the lack of notification. I told him that a simple email sent out with a link to the movie so, if we chose, we could watch it before our children did would’ve given me the chance to prepare. I would’ve known what my daughter had seen, I would’ve known what would’ve bothered her most (she is my child after all) and I would’ve had the chance to have an amazing conversation with her. The opportunity was lost because I wasn’t informed. My daughter was not given adequate time to process her emotions after the movie either and I think that opportunity was lost by the school.

    I’m disappointed by the parents of that school and that such blatant homophobia still exists. For parents to teach such hatred to their children…I see that as abuse.

    • robw77 says:

      Joy- I agree, he was wrong not to notify parents. I too would want that for the reasons you spelled out. I think an apology is appropriate, him meeting with the parents, a promise not to do it again.

      The homophobia is the elephant in this school’s living room however. And if they don’t want to address it on their own, then maybe outside input like ours will help!

  3. KT Doffing says:

    This is a great letter, thank you for sharing. I currently live in Seoul, South Korea and have for the last 2 years. I however, grew up in this town and have a little to share that may be hard to see from the outside. Unfortunate as it is, there are people in this community who are Catholic (however not all Catholics and all the Catholics in this community hold hatred for those who fit into the LGBT community), there are racists, there are bullies, but there are honest people as well who are trying to make this better.
    Now as I am not there directly, nor am I an 8th grade student, or a parent of a child that was shown this video, so I do not directly know, it is said that many people are not upset about the LGBT issues shown in the video, however that there was a lot of self-harm shown in the video. NOW, could this be an excuse, yes it very well could be. There are a lot of stand-up people in the world that are reacting to this issue, as well as in the small community of Conway Springs, and being positive towards fixing the issues and information are the best, not shamming everyone.
    Following this issues from thousands of miles away has shown me how much a negative thing can spread awareness and hopefully change the hearts of many, because hate is a terrible problem we have.

  4. Reblogged this on Fairy JerBear's Queer/Trans News, Views & More From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM and commented:
    Fighting homophobia should be commended not discouraged!

  5. Chris says:

    The Catholic church is a cult. Who cares what they say. Nothing Christian about them. But people are to blind to see that or question it

    • renxkyoko says:

      Those who advocate tolerance love , and kindness should not lose heart. It is sad that children live in this kind of environment.

    • renxkyoko says:

      Here in the US, it’s the non-Catholic evangelicals who are notoriously intolerant. My parish priest has been preaching tolerance, kindness , and charity. And he’s not the only one. The top 10 countries who are most tolerant of LGBT issues are 80 % Catholic countries. Spain, Brazil, Italy, the Philippines , France , Belgium as examples, with Spain as No. 1. The Catholic Church is a very tolerant religion,… however, the Church does believe marriage is between a man and a woman. And the Catholic Church is not a cult.

    • Marcus Shirah says:

      And you should check the history of Christianity and the bible which you read.

  6. Dr. Rex says:

    Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    “Mr. Leahy, you must not resign.” … what is wrong with this world?? Hiding reality and true life from kids isn’t going to prevent them from finding the truth … and maybe the wrong way. Please … open your minds to kindness and compassion!!

  7. Cary Vaughn says:

    I love this. Thank you.

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