John M Wallis resigned from Neosho Junior High School after administrators asked him to take down his pride flag. The 22-year-old teacher, who is also an alum of the school, received backlash for choosing to hang the flag in his classroom. He said the parents of his students complained about the decoration. Though he was not fired, the administration reportedly made his life very difficult.
Wallis was hired by his former school to teach speech, theater, and world mythology. After leaving, the teacher claimed he was devastated by how the administration dealt with the issue and is thinking of changing his career entirely.
The young teacher started his first teaching job just three weeks prior to resigning. He posted a sign that said “In this classroom EVERYONE is welcome.” He wanted his classroom to be a safe space for his students.
He soon received complaints about the flag and many parents said that he would “teach their children how to be gay.”
“I was then instructed to take my flag and signs down,” he wrote on Twitter. “In fact, the use of the pride flag in my classroom was compared to hanging the Confederate flag in my classroom.”
After removing the pride flag, Wallis received a letter from Superintendent Jim Cummins that included a list of subjects that the teacher was not allowed to cover in his classroom. This list included discussions and displays of sexuality, sexual preference, and gender. Wallis was instructed to keep any projects and assignments free of these topics too.
The letter went on to say, “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.”
Mr. John M Wallis said that it was the letter that sparked his decision to leave. He submitted his official resignation letter shortly thereafter. He gave Neosho Junior High School administrators his two weeks notice. The school found his replacement before the two weeks were over, so his last day was Sept. 2, reports said.
Superintendent Cummins released a statement following Wallis’ resignation. He said that “as per all personnel matters, there is a limited amount of information that is allowed to be shared by the school district.”
The former teacher took to Twitter to vent his frustration about the hostility that he faced. He quickly received support from those online. One of the commenters was State Rep. Crystal Quade from Springfield who said that she was appalled that Wallis had to deal with that discrimination. Quade said she was upset that it continues to occur to other people in Missouri.
She expressed her support for the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA) which would add sexuality and gender identity to Missouri’s Human Rights Act and would prohibit discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and housing. Politicians in Missouri have been trying to pass this bill for 20 years.
Wallis has filed a lawsuit against Neosho Junior High School with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for the school’s discrimination policy. The teacher said that the policy has no mention of gender identity or sexual orientation.
The young teacher said that he planned on staying with Neosho for many years and wanted to give back to the community that helped raise him. But he now believes that the school is not the best place for him.