Chicago-area school teacher Nathan Etter has been dealing with a controversy in his school district for months, but now he has his community by his side. The ordeal started on Valentine's Day, when the first-year music teacher at Prairie View Grade School received flowers from his husband, Philip. Naturally, some of the teacher's first-grade students were curious about the flowers, but when he explained that they had come from his husband, some replied with typical first-grade aversion along the lines of "Ew!" and "Gross!"
Etter seized the opportunity to talk to his students about respect for others and noted that some families have two mums or two dads. "I spent about 30 minutes on that teachable moment with the students," Etter said in an on-camera interview. "And then we moved on with our lesson." Though it was meant to be one small discussion on just one day, it quickly spiraled into a much bigger deal. According to Etter, the school principal requested to meet a week later and advised Etter to bring union representation. According to Jeff Kellenberger, the school board president, the matter had been resolved, but nearly two months later, the issue resurfaced.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the vice president of the local teachers' union recently send an email to all district faculty stating that the officials had "treated Mr. Etter in a discriminatory manner." The response initiated a school board meeting on Monday, April 16.
By then, word had spread on social media, and the community organised a "rally for equality" ahead of the meeting. About 100 parents, students, and union members gathered in support of the Etters, carrying a variety of signs saying "We support Mr. Etter" and "Respect For All." The Etters also received more than 30 bundles of flowers and gifts.
School officials insist Etter was not treated unjustly and that Etter is a valued teacher in the community who has already been asked back to teach again next year. But Etter is reportedly disappointed that he did not receive an apology. Even so, the fact that he received such immediate and passionate support from other members of the community is pretty exceptional in itself.