Teacher Fired for Giving LGBTQ Pride Bracelets to Students

A gay Ohio teacher is defending himself after his school district reportedly fired him for giving LGBTQ Pride bracelets to students.

The incident comes as schools across the United States grapple with the inclusion of the LGBTQ community, an issue that rose to national prominence after Florida enacted a law—known as "Don't Say Gay" legislation—that advocates argued would ban discussion of LGBTQ people in classrooms.

The teacher, Jay Bowman, was working as a substitute in a classroom at Huntington Local High School when several students asked him about a rainbow-colored bracelet he was wearing, according to the Scioto Valley Guardian. The bracelet featured the name 'First Capital Pride,' an LGBTQ advocacy group.

Bowman then took off his bracelet and gave it to a student. He explained to the students that First Capital Pride "offered support groups for teens who may be struggling, are suicidal, are ostracized, and need support."

Bowman said, per the Scioto Valley Guardian, that the gesture violated school policy, according to a superintendent.

In a statement to WSYX-TV, the school district said that Bowman "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."

Bowman told the news station that he was not trying "to recruit anyone," adding that if a student has questions, "I don't think I should be forbidden from providing [honesty]."

"I think the reaction to my violation when compared to other instances in the school where certain things are tolerated was unfair. 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."

LGBTQ inclusion in the educational system has become a hot-button issue in recent weeks. On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed his state's "Don't Say Gay" bill into law, which stated that "classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

The legislation has received significant pushback from LGBTQ advocacy groups, who have accused the law of aiming to silence members of the community. It has also prompted criticism from prominent businesses in the Sunshine State, including Disney.

In response to the pushback, DeSantis answered on Monday: "I don't care what Hollywood says," the governor said. "I don't care what big corporations say. Here I stand. I am not backing down."

Meanwhile, Louisiana has also seen a similar bill filed amid the national debate over Florida's latest law.

Newsweek reached out to the school district for comment but did not hear back by publication. This story will be updated with any response.

Ohio teacher fired for pride bracelet
A teacher from Ohio was reportedly fired for giving a Pride bracelet to a student. Above, a Pride flag seen in El Salvador in April 2009. JOSE CABEZAS/AFP via Getty Images