Being gay is just like being a murderer, says one Kansas middle school teacher. It’s bad enough hearing this from a teacher, a person responsible for shaping the minds of our nation’s children. The story gets worse when that teacher blasts the message across Facebook — and his students see it.
Jack Conkling, who teaches social studies at Prairie Middle School and coaches women’s basketball at Buhler High in Buhler, Kansas, decided to update his Facebook page last week with a rant against marriage equality.
“All this talk in the news about gay marriage recently has finally driven me to write,” Conkling wrote, according to The Advocate. “Gay marriage is wrong because homosexuality is wrong … It ranks in God’s eyes the same as murder, lying, stealing, or cheating.”
“To many this may seem close minded and antagonistic, but it doesn’t make it any less true,” he added.
HutchNews reports that many Buhler students are among Conkling’s approximately 600 Facebook friends. Several jumped in on the comment thread, voicing both disagreement and support for Conkling’s statements.
While Conkling is entitled to his own opinions, some argue that his position as an educator adds extra weight to the ideas he expresses in public. As one reader of The Advocate puts it, “The minute this guy became Facebook friends with the students at his school, any status updates, or comments he makes … must be treated as if they are said directly to (any) one of his students.”
Jon Powell, chairman of the Hutchinson chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition, told HutchNews that Conkling’s “inflammatory statements” could be interpreted as condoning anti-gay bullying. Given the alarming rise in suicide among bullied students, Powell said the post was “dangerous” and “irresponsible.”
“What would Mr. Conkling say to a student who is getting bullied for being gay or lesbian?” Thomas Witt, the KEC’s Executive Director, wondered in a press release.
When reached for comment, Prairie Hills Middle School principal Craig Williams said the school doesn’t have a policy about teachers on Facebook. “We’re looking into it,” he said.
Photo credit: Timothy Vollmer (Creative Commons)