Teacher resigns after publishing letter in school magazine suggesting gay people ‘deserve to die’
A high school teacher in California has resigned after he sent a letter to the student newspaper arguing that gay people deserve to die.
Michael Stack, a special education teacher at San Luis Obispo High School, California, submitted a letter to the editor of school newspaper Expressions in response to an earlier issue which included discussion of LGBTQ issues.
Stack stated that although he loves his students and the school, the Bible is “without error” and that he doesn’t “want to displease God any more than I already have with my sinful life, so in obedience to Him, I’m asking you to please slowly read and consider” a bible verse that refers to homosexual relations as “vile and shameful” and states that “those who do these things deserve to die.”
Expressions editor-in-chief Aric Sweeney told local NBC that he decided to publish the letter after a conversation with their staff adviser.
“Good journalism includes giving voice to both sides regardless of whether or not I agree with him because I’ll say up front, I disagree with everything he said in the letter to the editor, but decided to include it anyway because it’s important to give him a voice,” he said.
The letter sparked immediate outrage from students and the local community, including its mayor, Heidi Harmon.
“This is unacceptable,” she wrote on Facebook. “A teacher at SLO High wrote this shaming letter against the LGBT community — a community that already has a high degree of suicide.”
Teen Vogue reports that last Thursday, the school received a call threatening Stack’s life.
Stack did not show up to work that day but in the afternoon, he sent an email to the school (as well as to Fox News) announcing his resignation. “The community apparently wants me out, so I hereby grant them their desires,” he wrote.
An earlier statement by District Superintendent Eric Prater and Principal Leslie O’Connor said that there was no intention to fire Stack.
“A bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable,” they wrote in the statement, noting that neither students nor staff “shed their First Amendment rights” at school.
In his resignation letter, Stack wrote:
“I exercised my First Amendment rights and submitted my opinion in a public forum. […] Now people are exercising THEIR First Amendment rights by responding to that letter. This is how America is designed to function.”
While the school defended Stack’s right to free speech outside of the classroom, others deemed it inappropriate for a public school teacher to be sharing his religious beliefs.
Amber Ernst, co-president of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance, told the Tribune that Stack recently asked her to have a religious discussion with him outside the classroom. That allegation has been verified following an investigation.
“It’s inappropriate and poor judgment when a teacher or school official in a public education wants to have a private conversation about religion with a student,” O’Connor said.