An American substitute teacher has been fired after telling a fifth-grade classroom that “homosexuality is wrong,” after one student said they were “thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads”.
In a Twitter video that has now gained widespread attention, one of the dads said their child “was bullied” after the teacher at a Utah public school asked students in the class what they were thankful for, before they left for Thanksgiving break.
After the student responded and the teacher retorted with her homophobic remark, she then proceeded to tell the student that it was sinful for two men to live together, the father said.
The substitute teacher was fired soon afterwards, according to the staffing company that had placed the woman at the Deerfield Elementary school in Cedar Hills, Utah.
Louis van Amstel, the father of the child who posted the video, and who is known for his role on Dancing With the Stars, wrote on Twitter and Facebook that the teacher had bullied his 11-year-old son, Daniel.
“It shouldn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, bisexual, black and white,” van Amstel said in an interview on Sunday.
“If you’re adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life.
“The woman, even when the principal said, ‘Well, you’re fired,’ and escorted her out the door, tried to blame Daniel for what she said.”
The encounter happened on 21 November in the Alpine School District, one of the largest school districts in Utah, which serves roughly 80,000 students in several communities south of Salt Lake City.
47-year-old van Amstel is an Amsterdam-born choreographer, former dance champion and creator of the dance fitness program LaBlast.
After marrying his partner, Joshua Lancaster in 2017 at the Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah, Van Amstel posted a photo of their marriage license on Instagram. Lancaster later took the van Amstel surname so they and their children would have the same one.
The couple started the adoption process in 2018, and after seeing Daniel’s photograph online, they later met with Daniel in March. Coincidentally, Daniel’s placement with his dads came on Father’s Day, according to van Amstel, who said the adoption would become final this month.
“This boy since we met him feels like our son,” van Amstel said. “Right now, it feels like I made him.”
Van Amstel thanked three girls in the class for alerting the principal about the teacher’s actions as well as speaking up on behalf of his son, who he said didn’t want the teacher to get in trouble.
Van Amstel said he was proud of how swiftly and decisively the school had handled the situation but remains troubled about the vetting process of the teacher and how she had tried to impose her personal beliefs on a group of children. He also noted that his neighbours in Utah, a politically and socially conservative state, had rallied around his family, despite online commenters jumping to unfair conclusions.
“It doesn’t mean that all of Utah is now bad,” he said. “This is one person.”
The Alpine school district’s spokesman, David Stephenson, said in an e-mail that “the school took appropriate action that day based upon their investigation”, referring questions on the substitute teacher to Kelly Services, the staffing company used by the district. The teacher has not been publicly identified.
Kelly Services said in a statement Sunday that the substitute teacher is no longer employed with the company.
“We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate conduct and take these matters very seriously,” a statement said.
“We conducted an investigation and made the decision to end the employee’s relationship with Kelly Services.”
The company has not responded to questions about how long the substitute teacher was placed in the school district or the vetting processes used for school instructors.
The teacher’s actions came just a few weeks after the Trump administration proposed a rule change to roll back Obama-era discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Advocates for LGBTQI families have said that the reversal could allow foster care and adoption agencies to deny services to LGBTQI families on faith-based grounds.