At Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, which is about a thirty-minute drive from Salt Lake City, eleven-year-old Daniel van Amstel instantly knew what his answer was going to be when the substitute teacher asked the fifth-grade class the question the day before the school was to be let out for Thanksgiving vacation in late November of 2019.
It was an easy one.
The question was: “What are you thankful for this year?”
Daniels classmates had answered thusly….”My dog”, “Not having to come to school”, “Turkey and all the fixin’s”, etc…..
…..but Daniel had other thoughts that were all-encompassing.
After being in five foster homes and having one adoption process stopped halfway through, Daniel had finally found his forever home with a family that loved him so much, they wanted him to officially to be their son.
And so he said, “I’m thankful that I’m finally going to be adopted by my two dads.”
What he got from his mostly Mormon classmates were smiles. One girl patted his back. Another girl said, “Oh, how wonderful.”
But that good feeling was shut down immediately. According to those in his class, the teacher snapped.
“Why on earth would you be happy about that? That’s nothing to be thankful for.”
For ten long minutes she lectured the 30 children with “homosexuality is wrong” and “two men living together is a sin.”
She asked Daniel, “Are you going to be gay?”
And he looked right at her and gave an answer that was unexpected and frankly marvelous.
“I have no idea.”
Three of the young girls, 10-11 year olds I must point out, weren’t having it.
Led by 11-year-old Sophie.
They told the teacher that she was wrong. One kept on repeating “No, No, No.”
They told her to stop again and again, and every time the teacher glared at Daniel, Sophie would purposely get her attention to deflect the toxic energy being directed at Daniel.
Finally two of the girls walked out of the room whilst the teacher threatened them if they did so, and went straight to the principal’s office.
Sophie chose to remain in the room….she was not going to leave Daniel without her protection.
And with every poisoned barb, she either tried to change the subject, or she told the so-called adult in the room that what she was saying was inappropriate, was unnecessary, was wrong.
In the principal’s office, the impromptu meeting with the two students lasted all of about five minutes…and the decision was made there and then, and the sentence was carried out just as quickly.
The school security was called, they walked straight to the classroom and in front of all the students, they hurriedly escorted the teacher, whose name has not been disclosed anywhere that I could find, to her car.
As she was leaving the classroom, she told Daniel it was all his fault.
And whilst she was escorted to her car, she continued to say how wrong two men being married was.
The last word was spoken by the principal, Caroline Knadler, who told her, “You are never to return.
Now, that’s how it’s done. Amirite?
In a very short amount of time, this hater was told by the Alpine School District that she would never work for them again, and within the week the staffing company that hired her, Kelly Services, who is outsourced by the district to hire subs, gave her the permanent boot.
As it should be in all such cases.
Immediately after the incident Daniel’s then foster family and now his parents, Josh and Louis van Amstel, were called by the school administration and notified about the bullying.
If he looks familiar, Louis is a professional dancer on Dancing With The Stars and helps amateurs look….well, less amateur.
Josh and Louis were grateful for the immediate and proper response by all involved, though that did not stop Louis from going to social media to express his anger, disappointment, and hopes.
Noted Louis on why a cowed Daniel remained silent through the harassment….it boiled down to fear.
From his Facebook page…
“He was so fearful that this could make us think that we don’t want to adopt him. That’s definitely not going to happen. But this situation really hurt him. This person really hurt us.
I am so proud of the school. Not only did they let go of the teacher, they said this woman is never going to teach in this school again.”
“Daniel didn’t speak up…because he’s had two failed adoptions before and didn’t want his dads to rethink their decision, with his final court hearing coming up.”
Daniel was so traumatized by the incident, he didn’t want to talk about it for weeks…but finally when he was ready, he did.
And what you are about to see, from Daniel and from two of his three female classmate protectors, is marvelous in their maturity and confidence.
The very definition of Solidarity.
I am so impressed with everyone involved….especially these young people….especially Sophie.
Please indulge me and go back to 2:40 in the video once again.
When she says “…so, I just had to stop it,” and looks at the camera, I swear I saw the spirit of Clarence Darrow there.
Yes, the teacher….the ex-teacher…. reacted on religious intolerance, but please remember that the families of the girls and most of the school and district administration also belong to the same religion….and they reacted in complete tolerance and ferocious and immediate protection of Daniel and were only intolerant to intolerance.
And when in December, when the adoption at the Utah courthouse was finalized, there to celebrate with the happy family was Principal Knadler, Daniel’s teacher Miss Connors (whom they adore), half of Daniel’s class including his three angels….and Santa Claus.
This story is a few months old but I wanted to put the emphasis on the three 11-year-old girls that just wouldn’t let their classmate be bullied and thought that the recognition of their bravery deserved its own spotlight.-