A third-grade teacher and an assistant principal at a North Carolina elementary school have resigned after facing strong backlash over the teacher's decision to read a book about two gay princes falling in love and getting married aloud to his class without first seeking parental consent.
In April, Omar Currie read the book King & King, a tale about two princes who get married, to his third grade class at Efland-Cheeks Elementary School after one of his students told him about how he was insulted by other kids in the class who called him gay.
Currie told The Associated Press that he felt inclined to read the book in order to teach his students about tolerance and acceptance of people's differences.
The 25-year-old Currie, who is openly gay, borrowed a copy of the book from the school's assistant principal, Meg Goodhand, and admits that he did not think about how the parents would react after he read the book to their children.
But once parents found out that Currie read the book without notifying them first, three different families filed complaints before the school year concluded.
"When I read the story, the reaction of parents didn't come into my mind," Currie said. "In that moment, it just seemed natural to me to read the book and have a conversation about treating people with respect. My focus then was on the child, and helping the child."
Due to the outrage among the parents, Currie and Goodhand felt compelled to issue their resignations last week. And Currie said he felt he could no longer teach at a school located in the socially conservative church community of Efland.
"I'm resigning because when me and my partner sat down and talked about it we felt I wasn't going to have the support I needed to move forward at Efland," Currie added. "It's very disappointing."
Just hours after reading the book to his students, Currie said he was told by the school's principal that he would need to meet with her the next morning, as three families filed complaints with a school review committee.
Despite the fact that the review committee upheld his right to use the book in class, the school's principal instituted a new policy that requires teachers to submit an advanced list of all the books they plan to use in class for the parents to review.
Currie told The Herald Sun that he detested the policy because he feels it gives parents the ability to opt out of teaching their kids about important topics, such as LGBT issues.
He also said the policy would limit the books he could read to his class, saying that "great teachers pull text because it's right for the moment."
"I think that [policy is] very dangerous for a school system to get behind and support," Currie contended.
However, the parents that filed the complaint against Currie said he had no right to teach their third-grade children about homosexuality without them first being informed or given the opportunity to object.
Brandy Davis, who is the mother of two children enrolled at the school and was among the parents that complained about the book, told the News Observer that her children didn't even know what homosexuality was until the book was read in class.
"It's not about being gay or straight," Davis asserted. "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."
"I don't think it's appropriate material," she added. "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 further accused Currie of coming into Elfland with the intention of spreading an "outside" agenda.
"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."
Although Currie denies attempting to spread an agenda, his critics point to a statement he made at a recent LGBT conference that he co-lead with Goodhand.
According to the News Observer, Goodhand conducted research on the difficulties faced in school by children who don't fit into normal gender roles.
"Meg's research shares a perspective that through transformative learning opportunities, educators can reframe their attitudes, beliefs and knowledge about gender nonconformity, the LGBTQ community and the heteronormative culture within schools and society," Currie was quoted as saying at the conference. "Ideally, with this new understanding, educators as social justice leaders will be willing to disrupt the heteronormative culture of a classroom and their schools."
Currie defended himself against agenda allegations, however, by saying that he always teaches what's in the best interest of his students.
"I think that anyone who knows me as a teacher would understand that that is an absurd claim," Currie said. "Every single decision is based on what is best for my kids, not what is best for Omar Currie. I am a champion for my kids. I fight tooth and nail for every single thing that my kids need."