Conservative fearmongers scored a victory today when a Wake County preschool teacher resigned amid scathing criticism over her choice of classroom decor.
The issue? A series of flashcards posted on a bulletin board in the teacher’s classroom showing LGBTQ flags, LGBTQ couples, people of different races, and people with disabilities.
The teacher, who taught preschool students with special needs, resigned from Ballentine Elementary School on Friday, according to district spokeswoman Lisa Luten.
Her resignation came just before Republican House Speaker Tim Moore released an inflammatory statement on her “use of LGBTQIA+ themed flashcards, including a card with the depiction of a pregnant man, to teach colors to children.”
Pushback against teaching children about diversity and equity has been ongoing for the past several years. Conservatives now make regular appearances at school board meetings to try and get LGBTQ books removed from libraries, raining criticism on teachers who take one step away from the party line. Last week, North Carolina lawmakers introduced our state’s very own “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans K-3 teachers from talking about LGBTQ issues and imposes requirements for parental and school communication.
The complaint about this particular preschool teacher originated from a “concerned constituent,” not necessarily a parent, in state House District 37 (the southernmost part of Wake County). The person emailed Representative Erin Paré, a Republican, the week of May 23.
According to a news release, Paré then emailed school principal Lutashia Dove, who seized the flashcards and contacted the area superintendent and human resources—all this happened before the news release went out on Friday.
A review of the complaint, led by HR, is ongoing, Luten said Tuesday.
But why? Because the teacher had LGBTQ-friendly material in her classroom? The flashcards are being treated like contraband—as if the teacher had sexually-explicit posters lining her walls or was teaching children the ABCs using profanity.
Schools now seem to be under enormous pressure from high-level public officials to ban any mention of the word “gay.” Even state superintendent Catherine Truitt, a Republican, chimed in last weekend, writing on Facebook, “I can think of a hundred other ways to teach colors to pre-school children. Classroom materials need to be age appropriate, and this certainly doesn’t meet the mark.”
As of now, it’s unclear why the teacher resigned—whether it was a personal decision or due to the initial response to the flashcards by the principal and school system. The teacher submitted her resignation before Moore’s news release and subsequent public controversy, Luten says. After the news broke, the teacher shortened her stay at Ballentine, making her resignation effective on an earlier date, according to Luten.
It’s crystal clear, however, that the school district is jumping on the Republican bandwagon and propagating the narrative that instruction about LGBTQ people and issues should be “age-inappropriate.”
Luten’s statement following Moore’s news release reassures parents that “the district is concerned to learn of the inappropriate instructional resource found in a preschool classroom” and “the materials have been removed from the school.”
When asked if teachers are regularly monitored to see if what they’re teaching is appropriate, Luten pointed to school district policy 3200, which outlines how classroom instructional materials are chosen. The policy says responsibility for selecting supplemental materials—in this case, flashcards—falls to “school-based staff under the direction of the principal.”
“An initial review determined that flashcards were not tied to the district’s Pre-K curriculum, did not complement, enrich, or extend the curriculum and were used without the Principal’s review, knowledge, and/or approval,” Luten said.
By all accounts, the preschool teacher in question was an excellent educator.
“The saddest thing is our children lost the most incredible teacher. It’s just awful for them,” says Jackie Milazzo, whose child is in the preschool class. “She has changed so many children’s lives. Who my son was at the beginning of the school year, he’s grown in ways that we could have never even dreamed of.
“It’s sad that at a time when all of our schools, especially Wake County, have such a teacher shortage that we’re losing an incredible teacher over a drawing . . . . The parents that I’ve spoken to are absolutely just devastated.”
The people who are outraged over these flashcards seem to be from outside the school community, Milazzo says. Meanwhile, actual parents are now worried that their children will be a target of hate speech, heckling, or something worse, especially following the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Another parent, who also supports the preschool teacher, spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was afraid she or her children would be targeted.
“I am hesitant to include my name in anything right now just because we’ve got a lot of nuts in the Triangle,” the parent says. “I am in full support of our teacher, but I also need to be careful to protect my family.”
The parent’s initial reaction to the news about the flashcards was “terror,” she says. “Not for the materials in (the) classroom, but for just the spotlight that this puts on our school, the target it puts on our school.”
Fuquay-Varina police officers were at the school Tuesday at the request of the school district security department, according to The News & Observer.
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