The Alabama Board of Education voted Thursday to update the process of firing teachers who engage in classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity.
In April, state lawmakers passed a law that barred students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that aligned with their gender identities. The law also prohibited classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-5.
Late last month, as students returned to class from the summer holiday, an art teacher said that she was told to remove LGBTQ Pride flags from her classroom.
“My art classroom got a lot less colorful this week after my district mandated that I remove flags that I used as signs of love, acceptance and safety. I have a lot of hurt, confused and angry students,” Elisabeth Vaughn, who teaches in a school in Madison City, wrote on Facebook on Aug. 26.
“It’s not about the flags, y’all. It’s about the message we send to students by banning them,” she added.
The updated language states that any violations of the law — which could result in termination or suspension — must be reported to the State Superintendent of Education.
Ahead of the vote, two teachers expressed concerns about the law’s impact on their profession.
One of them, AP English teacher Rachel Mobley, asked the board to clarify the language so that educators wouldn’t be unfairly penalized.
“The consequences listed in the rule are too severe to allow for anything other than perfect clarity. If left unrevised, an aggressive parent complaint could result in an invaluable teacher’s or counselor’s termination and loss of certification,” she said.
She also asked the board to extend her time so she could point out what part of the language she felt needed clarification, but the board didn’t take a vote to do so.
“It would comfort teachers to know that any investigation’s results would not be based on subjective language,” Mobley was quoted as saying by AL.com.
“It would ensure a safer, more inclusive classroom environment for the LGBTQ students, and it would help avoid costly litigation in the event that a teacher is terminated unlawfully due to the subjective nature of this rule,” she added.