Students from Huntington Local High School demonstrated in favor of LGBTQ rights and a gay teacher who had lost his job.
Jay Bowman has worked as a substitute teacher in a Huntington school for the past thirty years.
Several females approached Bowman and inquired about the rainbow-colored First Capital PRIDE bracelet he was wearing.
“If a kid has questions. If a kid wants honesty, I don’t think I should be forbidden from providing that,” said Bowman.
Peter Ruby, the superintendent of the school district, refused to answer questions from ABC 6 on camera. However, the district issued a statement claiming that Bowman had broken school policy:
“To our Huntington Local Schools students, staff and families, Huntington Local Schools is committed to maintaining a welcoming and inclusive community for our students, teachers and staff. Those values guide us, and our district does not discriminate in our hiring practices. It is important for you to know that our Board policies restrict staff from discussing with students certain subjects, including political, religious and personal beliefs. This past week, we received reports with specific concerns about possible violations of those policies by a substitute teacher in the district. After a brief investigation, we confirmed, by the substitute’s own admissions, that he violated board policies by speaking to students about political and religious topics, as well as distributing bracelets. As a result of his violation of board policies, the district decided his services as a substitute would no longer be utilized. While we recognize there are diverse points of view on this matter, this policy exists for the purpose of ensuring all students feel comfortable in the classroom. Our district has a continuing and firm commitment to support our LGBTQIA+ students, teachers and staff. We understand that a demonstration of support may be planned for Monday to raise awareness about LGBTQIA+ issues. Student-led expression is permitted so long as there is no disruption to the education of students. The district encourages compassion and respect for everyone in our school community. I welcome any organizer to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org so that any demonstration of support is peaceful and orderly, and all students feel comfortable and welcome. Thank you for your continued support of our district as we work to ensure an environment of acceptance and belonging for all.”
“I don’t try to recruit anyone,” Bowman said Monday. “The parents are responsible for the kids. The parents are the ones who need to teach their kids right and wrong.”
“I think the reaction to my violation when compared to other instances in the school where certain things are tolerated was unfair,” said Bowman. “Huntington Township is by in large a conservative area and human rights are not a foreign entity at all but it is outside the comfort level of a lot of people.”
“I know I have opened a can of worms. I know I started a discussion. I trust the members of this community know I did that with no ill intent,” Bowman said.
“We are saying that it is not okay to be out. It’s not okay to be gay or queer or LGBTQ. Or if you are out about there will be consequences,” Daniel Matthews, with First Capital PRIDE, said.
Bowman claims that approximately 40 former students and athletes have come forward throughout his teaching tenure. “Huntington is my home. it is where I got my first teaching job. It is everything to me. It just is. I love this community I love this school.”
“I was taught that God doesn’t make junk. I am not junk, I am Jay,” Bowman said.
Both sides were riled up by the rally at the school. Bowman believes it proves that he, as well as LGBTQ kids, are not alone. “It is important that everyone’s voice be heard. “My mantra has become, and there is, there is place at the table for everyone,” Bowman explained.
Some residents have expressed their desire for the school board’s policy to be reconsidered. It will be discussed at the board meeting on April 11th.
The article was paraphrased from the following: Chillicothe area gay teacher loses job after he gives Pride bracelets to students, Lu Ann Stoia, Tuesday, March 29th 2022, https://abc6onyourside.com/news/local/chillicothe-area-gay-teacher-loses-job-after-he-gives-pride-bracelets-to-students