The week before Thanksgiving, a substitute teacher at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah asked her class of fifth graders a traditional question: "What are you thankful for this year?" One boy gave his very serious answer: "I'm thankful that I'm finally going to be adopted by my two dads."
The answer that should have elicited "Awwws!" and "Wows!" instead sent this substitute teacher on a homophobic rant. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, "students later said that the substitute snapped, 'Why on earth would you be happy about that?"
"For the next 10 minutes she lectured the 30 kids in the class about her own views, how 'homosexuality is wrong' and 'two men living together is a sin.' She looked at the boy, too, and told him: 'That's nothing to be thankful for,'" reports The Salt Lake Tribune. These are fifth graders. In 2019.
As absolutely infuriating as this is, what happened next might restore your faith in humanity a little bit. There were three girls in the glass who kept speaking up and asking the substitute to stop. When she wouldn't listen to them, the three girls walked out of the room and went to get the principal.
Luckily, the school acted swiftly. The teacher was "escorted out of the building" while she was "still arguing, trying to make her point." Louis van Amstel, one of the boy's dads, told The Salt Lake Tribune, "She also tried to blame our son and told him that it was his fault that she went off." Clearly, this woman never should have been put in front of a class of children in the first place.
Louis and his husband, Josh, said the school contacted them immediately after the incident. "At first," The Salt Lake Tribune reports, "their son, who's 11 years old, didn't want to talk about it and didn't want to get the substitute teacher in trouble. The school pieced the story together from multiple student accounts. And the incident is now under investigation."
Imagine being that poor little kid. A teacher is a figure of authority, someone you implicitly trust, especially at that age. You tend to believe that your teacher is right when they speak because it's their job to tell you the truth. This teacher invalidated this boy's entire family. That has to be completely traumatizing. Luckily, there were those three girls who knew that what was happening was wrong, and they stood up for their classmate.
Of course, Louis and Josh are wondering how this woman ended up in front of a classroom. The school uses a third-party staffing company called Kelly Services to staff their substitutes. Kelly Services provided this statement about the incident: "We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously. We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."
In an update to the original report, Kelly Services confirmed that the substitute has been fired.
"It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," Louis told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school." Their son told them that he "understood what the substitute was saying" but "he didn't speak up, though, because he's had two failed adoptions before and didn't want his dads to rethink their decision." How awful is that?
"He was so fearful that this could make us think that we don't want to adopt him," Louis said. "That's definitely not going to happen. But this situation really hurt him. This person really hurt us."
Kelly Services claims that their substitutes go through a rigorous training process before they enter the classroom, but obviously, this person slipped through the cracks.
The community has rallied around the van Amstel family in the wake of this difficult situation. Their neighbors decorated their house with paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you." Louis and Josh are very grateful for the response from the town, even though this never should have happened in the first place. And next month, they will finalize their son's adoption.