Jay Bowman said in a Facebook post he was fired for handing out First Capital Pride bracelets to his students at Huntington High School in Chillicothe, Ohio. Bowman said he also answered questions from students about the LGBTQ advocacy group.
The First Capital Pride Coalition, based out of Chillicothe, Ohio, supports the LGBTQ community by offering community events, advocacy efforts focusing on inclusion, and health equity education.
“I don’t try to recruit anyone. The parents are responsible for the kids. The parents are the ones that need to teach their kids right and wrong,” Bowman said.
Huntington Local School District Superintendent Peter Ruby released a statement on Sunday, saying Bowman violated board policies by speaking about personal beliefs, “political and religious topics, as well as distributing bracelets.”
“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,” Ruby said in a letter to the school community.
Asked if the district considers LGBTQ topics to be religious or political, Ruby told CNN, “There were a number of topics he spoke to students about (religious and political) more than just LGBTQ+ issues.”
When addressing Bowman’s firing, the superintendent said the district does not discipline substitutes because they are contracted through another entity. “We simply choose to not use those who violate board policies.”
Bowman added in another post on March 27 that he “did technically, violate a policy” that he did not know about by handing out the bracelets. He went on to say he has “zero regrets.”
“Huntington is my home. It is where I got my first teaching job. It is everything to me. It just is. I love this community.”
Bowman’s firing has elicited mixed emotions. Pictures shared with WSYX showed some students wore pride bracelets to class after his firing, but other photos show “love is love” signs ripped and tossed in the toilet at the high school.
The superintendent said a demonstration is planned at the school Monday, April 4, to support Bowman. Ruby said “student-led expression is permitted so long as there is no disruption to the education of students.”