It’s pretty standard for teachers to read to their young students, but a third grade teacher was just forced to resign from his much-loved post for doing so.
The problem, according to the parents who forced him out, was that Omar Currie had chosen to read his class King & King, a story about two princes who fall in love and eventually marry. It had been lent to him by an assistant principal, also forced into resignation, and chosen because Currie wanted to comfort a student who came to him, crying, because another student called him “gay”—which, in a town ruled by churches and socially conservative morals, just didn’t fly.
The homophobia of the town, it seems, is stronger than he’d anticipated. Reports AP Online:
“When I read the story, the reaction of parents didn’t come into my mind,” Currie, 25, said Tuesday. “In that moment, it just seemed natural to me to read the book and have a conversation about treating people with respect. My focus then was on the child, and helping the child.”
What makes the story even sadder is that Currie himself, who’s both gay and black, was bullied as a youth, and enrolled especially in UNC’s teaching program with the goal of helping young people who might be going through the same thing. He was introduced to King & King during his educational training as a way to facilitate tough conversations in the classroom.
Now, Currie has become the target of some very irrational parents—even though his classroom conduct has never been cause for concern before.
But at the committee meetings to discuss Currie’s use of the book, some parents whose children were not in his class made their attacks personal, telling him he would die young and spend eternity in hell. He also began receiving hate-filled letters and emails, including one copied to other teachers at the school, described homosexuality as a “birth defect” while accusing Currie of trying to “indoctrinate” children through “psycho-emotional rape.”
Though he says administrators never formally disciplined him for his decision to read the book, Currie said he was made to feel that he had done something wrong and felt pressured to leave the school. He is currently looking for another teaching job.
Any school would be lucky to have a teacher like Currie: someone who’s progressive-minded, compassionate, and puts his students’ best interests before his. I have no doubt another school system that values those traits will be happy to have him in their ranks, and soon.
Image via Tricycle Press