The Wichita Eagle, Part OneThe Wichita Eagle, Part Two
"Love Is All You Need" video
Tom Leahy, a social studies teacher at Conway Springs Middle School in Kansas, was expected to resign last week after showing an ALLEGEDLY offensive film to his students; an anti-bullying film that depicted a fictional world where straight kids were bullied by gay kids.
“I knew something was going to happen. I just didn’t know this would happen.”
Conway Springs Superintendent Clay Murphy confirmed that Leahy was “on leave,” but he would not say why, or whether Leahy was being paid while on love, though it's clear that the Conway Springs school board will meet this week and is expected to accept Leahy’s resignation for showing that film to his class.
That film is “Love Is All You Need” — a 19-minute movie in which a heterosexual girl grows up in a being raised in a dystopian society where homosexuality is normal; the girl is bullied by classmates — to the indifference of teachers — and ultimately commits suicide.
Tom Leahy was prompted to show the film after a recent lesson in American history took a rather disturbing turn.
Leahy split his class of eighth graders into two groups, and asked them to create fictional colonies, each with its own Bill of Rights. One group wrote that homosexuals would not be allowed in its colony and, Leahy says, other students in the class were upset by his.
“I was expecting fairly positive kinds of colonies: ‘Do things we think are right, and be nice.’ But it just kind of got twisted around, and it became a place where certain people weren’t allowed.”
So he set about finding a film that dealt with the bullying of LGBTQ students and found “Love Is All You Need;” he shared it with students the next day. And, to be fair, he did not get the administration’s permission to show the film, nor did he send notes home to parents to give them the opportunity to opt their children out of watching it.
“I didn’t want just a dorky little film. I wanted something that was important, something that was serious. So that’s the one I came up with. I’m not saying what I did was very smart. It really wasn’t, but I’m a spur-of-the-moment kind of guy, and it seemed right at the time.”
A few days after showing the film, Leahy was told by the principal that several parents were upset about the subject matter and tone of the film, especially the ending which shows brief images of the main character slitting her wrists, the teacher said.
“Yeah, it was a little rough. I get it, but shoot, these kids play video games that are decapitating people.”
But the biggest sticking point in the entire film was a scene in which a female church leader addresses a Catholic congregation and says:
“In light of recent events in the Netherlands, where heterosexual marriage is now allowed, Pope Joan VII wants to remind Catholics all over the world that the church has not changed its stance on this issue. It is a sin for a man to lust after a woman. It is an abomination for a woman to lie with a man outside of the breeding season. … Any such person harboring lust in their heart for the opposite sex will burn in hell.”
A significant portion of the Conway Springs population is Catholic.
The funny, ironic thing, is that Leahy talked with his class about that particular scene after the film, and made it clear that it could have been any religion, and that it was unfair to Catholics and a "cheap shot.” Still, he never expected that showing this film would lead to school administrators suggesting that he resign his teaching position.
“There are people who don’t want their children in my classroom. I thought that I’d take a little time off and then come back, and people would cool their heels and everything would be better. That didn’t happen.”
Tom Leahy’s last day teaching was October 21; he has been on leave since then and was to begin cleaning out his classroom last weekend.
“I don’t hold grudges against anybody. I think it got out of hand, and the people in charge had to do what they had to do. I’m just — I don’t know what the word is — sad, disappointed.”
Except … Tom Leahy changed his mind, and will not be resigning and will not be cleaning out his desk this week, and, apparently, has the support of the school board, who issued a written statement saying, in part that he “will be allowed back in the classroom with some safeguards in place to make sure the students in the classroom are okay which is our number one concern.”
Hopefully this means cooler heads prevailed, and that, while Tom Leahy may have overstepped by not asking for permission before showing the film, his choice educated a few students — and perhaps their parents — to the way many LGBTQ youth feel in schools these days.
I am so beyond tired of writing about the suicide of a child because they were bullied beyond belief, and I, personally, would love to have more teachers like Tom Leahy in school, who listened to his students, listened to their homophobic Bill of Rights discussion, and chose to educate them rather than ignore the issue.