Openly queer teacher fired after allowing students to paint LGBTQ flags in art class

Openly queer teacher fired after allowing students to paint LGBTQ flags in art class

As Daily Kos has covered at length, Republicans are making it exceptionally difficult for LGBTQ+ students, teachers, families, and frankly, people in general. This sad fact is unfortunately especially true in the state of Florida, with a special thanks to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed the discriminatory Don’t Say Gay bill into law. In short, the legislation bars public school staff, including teachers, from discussing LGBTQ+ topics or identities in the classroom. Defendants of the legislation argue the measure applies just to elementary schoolers, but verbiage in the law is general enough that it can be argued at any grade level. Either way, it’s discriminatory and unacceptable as there is no reason children can’t learn about the existence of LGBTQ+ folks.

And all of this hate is already impacting schools. One middle school teacher, who openly identifies as pansexual, has already lost her job for discussing sexuality with her students, who are middle schoolers. Scott worked as an art teacher and allowed students to create flags that reflected any part of their identities, including creating entirely original flags.

Once she hung the art on the door of her classroom, Scott says, she lost her job. If you’re wondering if parents complained about the art and discussion, you’re right.

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“They said it would be in the best interest if I got rid of them now,” Scott told local outlet CBS Miami about the school district’s reaction to the paintings. She told the outlet that the administration told her they were releasing her from her contract. According to the outlet, the Lee County school district says Scott was fired over not following the curriculum as mandated by the state.

Vivian Topping, director of advocacy and civic engagement at the Equality Federation, and Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights

“A discussion happened in class and because of that …” Scott told local outlet NBC 2. “Now I’m fired.” According to Scott, some of the students created flags reflecting gay, nonbinary, and bisexual orientations. Scott shared with the outlet that during the discussion of identities, Scott explained that she is pansexual (generally meaning one experiences attraction regardless of someone’s gender identity or gender presentation) and that she is married to a man. According to students in the class, some said they understood what her identity meant, and some said they were confused by it.

Union President Kevin Daly told CBS Miami that the district was able to legally fire Scott because, during her probationary period as a first-year teacher, she was not yet part of the union. 

Daly told NBC 2 that teachers should really consider Scott’s dismissal as a wake-up call for how things are going in Florida.

“There is kind of a heightened state of where is the boundary?” Daly told the outlet. “And what are employees supposed to do? Or allowed to do, when a topic comes up in discussion.”

According to Republicans, teachers are clearly supposed to stay in the closet and keep quiet, increasing the odds that young people will internalize this behavior and stay in the closet as well. Otherwise, say goodbye to your job!

And regardless of a student’s orientation or identity, the removal of a trusted adult after that sort of discussion has got to be scary. If nothing else, it certainly suggests these discussions (and people who have them) are dangerous and somehow inappropriate or wrong.

“I would like to see a statement from the school board recognizing they have to have a mental health counselor come in and speak with the children impacted by their actions toward this teacher,” Crystal Czyscon, an LGBTQ+ advocate, told NBC 2, stressing that she’s worried about how LGBTQ+ students in Scott’s classes might feel as a result of Scott’s abrupt removal for this reason.  

Oh, and all of this happened just days before DeSantis signed the Don’t Say Gay bill into law back in March. Looks like a warning if I’ve ever seen one … 

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