The Short of It
Third-grade teacher Omar Currie read his students a book about two gay princes, and it sparked outrage among parents. And now he and the assistant principal who loaned him the book have resigned from their jobs.
Currie decided to read the book, "King & King" after a student came to him crying, saying another child had called him "gay" in a derogatory way and said he was acting like a girl. In the book, two princes fall in love and get married in a royal wedding.
Currie believed he was doing the right thing. He commonly reads to his students in Efland, N.C., and had first encountered the book during his teaching education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where it had been presented as a way to teach children about diversity in the classroom. The assistant principal, Meg Goodhand, had loaned him the book.
"When I read the story, the reaction of parents didn't come into my mind," Currie told the Associated Press. "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."
But in the socially conservative community, the book was not received well. Within hours, parents complained to the principal and urged administrators to ban the book. The principal reacted by telling teachers they must submit a list of books they plan to read in advance to their students' parents.
Sadly, Currie, who is gay and lives with his male partner, was personally attacked by parents in meetings about the use of the book. According to the Associated Press: "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.'"
And while the teacher wasn't disciplined for reading the book, he says he felt pressured to leave the school, so he resigned, and so has Goodhand.
"I'm resigning because when me and my partner sat down and talked about it, we felt I wasn't going to have the support I needed to move forward at Efland," he said. "It's very disappointing."
I'm so sad to know that this teacher was personally attacked. No matter what parents thought about the book's use in school, it's important to treat others with respect and compassion, and they certainly didn't do that. They're not setting good examples for their children in how to handle others' differences, and I'm afraid these children won't get a good lesson in bullying if they don't get it in school.
Currie says he's had five job interviews since his resignation, and I hope he can find a position where he can be a positive role model in students' lives.
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