Tennessee Teacher Says He Was Fired For Starting Gay-Straight Alliance

Students at the school now fear its rampant bullying problem will only get worse.

A teacher at Union County High School in Maynardville, Tennessee says he was let go from his job recently because he sponsored a Gay-Straight Alliance for students.

The teacher, Chris Richeson, said he was asked by a student to sponsor the club because there is a culture of bullying at the school.

An investigative report by ABC affiliate WATE uncovered several students at the high school who gave detailed accounts of times they’ve been bullied or felt unsafe at school.

“I have a lot of friends who are in the LGBT community and it’s such a struggle, especially at such a small town small school. It’s very conservative,” said UCHS junior Emily Potts. “It’s not accepted…They make rude comments, they threaten them, there’s a lot of violence.”

Students even showed WATE pictures of posters that recently appeared around school, saying things like “Gay is not the way” and “Stay straight, God is coming back soon.”

“There were chants going around, ‘steers not queers,’” another student added.

Richeson said administrators lectured him about the club more than a dozen times before he received a letter stating his employment would not be renewed for the 2016-2017 school year, despite his status as a “five level teacher,” which he says “means that on their scale I’m the best you can be.”

“I was called down to the principal’s office repeatedly and given lectures involving the GSA’s attempts to do different activities,” he said. “It was very difficult to get approval for basic things that other clubs do such as making announcements or hosting an event.”

Richeson asked but was not given an official reason for his contract termination. Several calls to the school made by WATE also went unreturned.

He said that while he’s currently looking for employment on other states, his heart goes out to the students who’ll be most affected by his absence.

“I always told them they were completely safe in my classroom, that I would lose my job before I ever allowed anything to happen to them,” he said. “Unfortunately that did happen.”

Matthew Tharrett is a writer, filmmaker, and above all else, a Britney fan. He once shared a milkshake with Selena Gomez.
@mattharrett