A North Carolina teacher who read his third grade students a fairy tale that included gay characters has drawn both praise and protest from parents, some of whom have accused him of "indoctrinating" their children.
25-year-old Omar Currie of Efland-Cheeks Elementary School said he read his class King & King after he noticed one of his students being bullied. Instead of punishing the bullies, he chose to read them a story with underlying themes of acceptance and tolerance.
"There was a group of boys that had been referring to the child as a girl or a woman, saying 'OK, woman,' or 'OK, girl,'" Currie, who identifies as gay, told the Huffington Post. "This particular child who was being bullied was very, very upset."
King & King is an illustrated fairy tale about a prince who realizes he'll never fall in love with a princess, and instead finds true love with another prince. In the end, the two marry and become kings together, sharing a kiss on its final page.
According to Currie, one student said the story made them feel uncomfortable because they had never seen two men kiss or marry each other. Currie responded, "Well, it's normal to feel uncomfortable when you feel something new, but what is the moral? The moral is to treat people well, no matter who they are."
"They only way to combat school bullying is teachers engaging in difficult, yet powerful, conversations with their students," he told WRAL.
Currie's decision to read King & King to his class drew three complaints from parents. On Friday, parent Lisa Baptist told school administrators at a meeting, "[You're] infiltrating young minds, indoctrinating children into a gay agenda and actively promoting homosexuality to steer our children in that direction."
Ultimately, Currie had more than 200 supporters at the meeting.
"Every single day in middle school I was called a faggot," he said. "I was called that in front of teachers and no one ever stopped to address the problem. It gave me an understanding that it must be fixed immediately when it happens."
"Three weeks ago, after I read the book, it was a very lonely experience, because I felt like I was standing by myself. On Friday, it wasn’t just me standing up for what was right, it was all of us. That was powerful," he said.
Though the school board decided not to ban the book moving forward, they asked that teachers inform parents about the books they'll be reading in class ahead of time.