Skip to main content

WBEZ News

Gay Illinois Teacher Sparks Debate With Tolerance Talk

ELGIN, Ill. (AP) — A gay Illinois teacher has sparked debate after explaining to his students he received flowers from his husband and encouraging them to be respectful and tolerant.

Prairie View Grade School music teacher Nathan Etter, 30, received the flowers on Valentine's Day, the Daily Herald reported . He said he spent about 30 seconds on the topic of acceptance after some of his first-grade students negatively reacted to him having a husband.

One student's parent came to district officials with concerns about the discussion. Officials warned Etter to "stick to the curriculum," the teacher said.

"I took that as a verbal warning," Etter said. "I'm an untenured teacher, so they don't have to necessarily have a reason to not invite me back next school year to teach."

Etter and a union representative allege school leaders are treating him in a "discriminatory manner."

The district is committed to diversity and respect, according to an April 12 letter from Central Unit District 301 Superintendent Todd Stirn and school Board President Jeff Kellenberger.

"While we have strong diversity and inclusion policies and practices in place, we can always learn and improve," the letter said. "We want to state clearly that discrimination, harassment, exclusion or intimidation in any form are unacceptable and will not be tolerated in District 301."

Etter's job was never in jeopardy, no further action was taken and the matter has been resolved, officials said.

But Etter said officials still haven't clarified what they meant by urging him to "stick to the curriculum."

"I personally take that to mean don't talk about being gay," Etter said. "I just want to make sure this doesn't happen to any student, parent or teacher who is of the LGBTQ community or who is diverse in any other way."

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.

CLOSE X