Gay third-grade teacher resigns over rule informing parents of reading materials

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez |

(Newsobserver.com)Omar Currie, a 25-year-old gay elementary school teacher resigned this week when school administration officials implemented a policy that required teachers to notify parents of reading material ahead of time.

EFLAND, N.C. (Christian Examiner) -- A gay third grade teacher has resigned effective June 15 from a North Carolina school after parent backlash in response to a book he read to the class about two princes who fall in love. 

Last spring, Omar Currie, read the fairy-tale themed book King & King about two princes who get married aloud to his students. He read the book to his students at Efland-Cheeks Elementary when some pupils teasingly called a boy in class "gay."

Though a review board upheld the book as appropriate class room material, Currie has chosen to leave because administrators adopted a policy requiring teachers to notify parents of all books intended for class reading.

According to the Herald Sun, Currie called the policy "unrealistic," and suggested the practice of allowing such parent involvement undermined great teaching.

"Great teachers pull texts because it's right for the moment," he said.

However, some parents disagree and at least three families publicly complained prior to the end of the school year.

Brandy Davis, an Efland local and the parent of second and fourth grade students at the school was among those who complained about the book.

Davis, a 34-year-old nurse, suggested others were afraid to speak up for fear of being harassed and that she herself had received an anonymous letter in the mail from a book fan.

Despite the risk, Davis stood behind her claims that Currie should have notified parents that the book would be presented to students.

"It's not about being gay or straight," Davis, told the News Observer. "They're my children. I thought we were supposed to be on a team. Parents and teachers are supposed to be on the same team."

An illustration from King & King.

By approaching the topic of same-sex relationships without parents' knowledge Davis said it prohibited her from having the discussion with her children first.

"My children did not know what homosexuality was until all this came about. That is something we were going to talk to them about," Davis said.

Beyond her issue with Currie initiating a sensitive conversation, Davis questioned Currie's intentions and the influence of community outsiders with liberal agendas.

"I'm just really disappointed," she said. "I grew up here. My family went to school here. I'm very sad that people who came from the outside, people who have to Google the community to get here, would do something like this."

TEACHER AND ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL SHARE LGBTQ PLATFORM

Currie participated in an April "LGBT in the South" Conference where he and the school's assistant principle, Meg Goodhand, shared a platform with others that addressed LGBTQ education in the south and "disrupting heteronormative school cultures."

Currie denied having an agenda with his students, but Goodhand, who leant Currie the King & King book in her biography for the conference clearly states her purpose.

Referencing her research, Currie said it "asserts (that) social activists must focus on the elementary school culture to begin to confront heterosexism and homophobia at this early and crucial period of development."

In a similar situation earlier this year, the school district officials of an elementary school in Maine issued an apology to parents for failing to send advanced notice that students at Horace Mitchell Primary School would be reading a book about a transgender boy named "Jazz" as part of a lesson on tolerance and acceptance.

In that instance too, concerns were expressed that the school introduced a sensitive subject without giving parents an opportunity to first engage their children in a conversation about sexual identity.

An anonymous parent reached out to Sean Hannity of Fox News to draw public attention to what they saw as a troubling matter.

"My right as a parent to allow or not allow this discussion with my child was taken from me. It is very upsetting to me that I didn't have an option at all," a mother wrote to Hannity via email.

Yet 25-year-old Currie opposes the notion that parents should be allowed the option to keep students from hearing books like King & King and denounced policies like the one implemented at Efland-Cheeks that gives parents advance notice of class room book titles and topics.

"I think that that's very dangerous for a school system to get behind and support," Currie said.

According to some reports, King & King remains under review for classroom use after the decision to allow it was appealed. A third public meeting on the book will be held to determine its future use. If the outcome of that meeting is challenged, the matter could reach the Board of Education.