Students Stage Walkout to Protest Bi Teacher Being Placed on Leave

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday September 9, 2021

Lucas Kaufmann, a teacher in Winterset, Iowa, was placed on leave after coming out as bisexual. But the school's students aren't having it. They staged a walkout, the Des Moines Register reports.

"Kaufmann was placed on leave last week following a presentation about himself to his class [which] featured the LGBT Pride flag," the Register story said. "When asked by students, Kaufmann said he was bisexual."

A right-wing website also reported on Kaufmann's disclosure, the article noted.

Iowa state law protects LGTBQ+ workers from being fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identification, according to the Register. Still, "Winterset Community School District Superintendent Justin Gross confirmed Kaufmann was placed on leave after concerns were raised following Kaufmann's presentation," the article detailed.

One Iowa Executive Director Courtney Reyes told the newspaper that Kaufmann having been put on leave "sends a really harmful message to the LGBTQ students in the district that they are not valid."

Some of the students agreed.

"Being able to have a teacher who was out and open would have shown us as students that it was OK to be out, to be open, to be yourself, and it's OK to love who you love," said high school senior Jillian Simon.

"Everyone's mad at him for being who he is and I feel like that's unfair and we should talk about that," Amari Bonner, an eighth grader, told the newspaper.

"It's proving that kids cannot come out without punishment," said Savannah Charlet, one of Kaufmann's former pupils. Charlet went on to add that "teachers should have the right to be who they are."

The Iowa State Education Association — Iowa's largest teachers union — expressed similar sentiments, with a spokesperson telling the Register that "an educator should be allowed to teach without hiding their identity."

A petition demands Kaufmann be returned to the classroom, saying that Kaufmann was placed on leave for including "a picture of a pride flag in a section of his power point presentation about pictures that describe him!! He admitted to his students after being asked, that he was bisexual."

The petition alleges that "government officials" have "falsely accuse[d] him of talking about his sex life in school, which is not what he did. The only thing he is guilty of is trying to show his students they could have a safe person to talk to about themselves and their sexual orientation, without any form of judgment."

The petition seeks 5,000 signatures. Just over 2,500 people have signed so far at the time of this story's publication.

A similar student walkout took place in Colorado last month, after a private Christian school reportedly told a gay volleyball coach that he could either renounce being gay or forfeit his job.

Students of Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, Co., spoke up during the walkout there to condemn what they said was a culture of anti-LGTBQ+ harassment. One alumnus recalled that when he was still a student at Valor, "a teacher in one of my classes [led] a discussion about what part of Hell I would end up in because of my choices."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.