A substitute teacher, who has not been publicly identified, has been escorted from Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah, after allegedly admonishing a student who shared he was grateful for his two soon-to-be-officially adoptive parents, Louis Van Amstel and Joshua Van Amstel. The issue? The fifth-grader’s adoptive parents are both men; the substitute in question allegedly replied by saying the two men are living in “sin.”
How did we get here? Before Thanksgiving, the substitute reportedly asked students to share what made them grateful in light of the holiday. Pretty normal activity right before the break. After the child shared about his dads, and specifically, how grateful he feels to finally be close to adoption, however, the teacher reportedly critiqued the response and said that the two-dad adoption is “nothing to be thankful for,” “homosexuality is wrong,” and “two men living together is a sin,” all of which continued for about ten minutes, as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune.
Three students went to the principal about the teacher’s alleged homophobic rant. The teacher was then escorted from the building.
The little boy did not initially speak up about the incident, as reported by The Washington Post. Why not? Power dynamics aside, the 11-year-old was apparently afraid his adoption would be ruined, as some in the past hadn’t worked out.
“He was so fearful that this could make us think that we don’t want to adopt him,” Louis van Amstel explained to the Salt Lake Tribune in an interview. “That’s definitely not going to happen. But this situation really hurt him. This person really hurt us.”
Louis Van Amstel shared about the alleged incident on Twitter, where it quickly went viral.
Our child was bullied. pic.twitter.com/gZ5yI0Z2F0
— Louis van Amstel (@LouisVanAmstel) November 22, 2019
“Not once have I been treated like how this woman treated us,” van Amstel said to the Post, stressing that the couple feels otherwise supported by friends and neighbors. For reference, Cedar Hills is about 45 minutes outside of Salt Lake City.
What does the school district have to say? As the Salt Lake Tribune reports, David Stephenson, a spokesperson for the district, confirmed to the paper that “appropriate action has been taken.” There is an ongoing investigation into the substitute’s comments. Stephenson also noted that the district has a nondiscrimination policy, though the Advocate reports that the discrimination policy addresses gender, not sexuality.
The substitute was placed in the school by Kelly Services, a temp agency. In a statement to the Post, the agency said it was “concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior.” Notably, the agency did not clarify the substitute’s employment status.
“We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence,” Anna Schryver, a spokesperson from the agency, provided in a statement to Fox 13. “We’re looking into this situation and we have no further comment at this time.”
“So much good has come from this one ugly act that it’s amazing to know we live in the right community,” Josh van Amstel told Fox 13. The little boy’s adoption will be finalized in December, as noted by the Post.