Neosho teacher resigns following district orders to remove pride flag from classroom

NEOSHO, Mo. —John Wallis was looking forward to his first year teaching at Neosho Junior High School, and wanted to make his classroom an inclusive space for all of his students.

After asking the school administration if he could display a pride flag and sign saying in this classroom all are welcome, he says he was advised not to.

“But I ultimately decided to put the signs up above my whiteboard and I had a small pride flag on my bookshelf,” Wallis said. 

When parents found out, they complained to the superintendent of the district, and Wallis was advised to sign a letter, stating he would take down the flag and sign…or face termination.

“I was asked to sign a letter that said I would not talk about human sexuality or my sexual preference in the classroom…it was a representation that my classroom was a safe space for students,” he said.

That was the last straw, he turned in his resignation the following morning.

“For this to happen, was already upsetting enough, because I have seen how this community responds to things like that, but I thought we had been able to move past this.”

The news was hard for many, one of Wallis’s students was a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Her mother, Cassie Mcclendon says she was excited to finally have someone to relate to.

“She’s devastated, she doesn’t feel like she can have anybody that she can go to…it made her more comfortable I guess to be herself, especially in the classroom.”

After Wallice posted the news on Facebook, the support poured in from students, parents, and others.

“He was an amazing teacher, and I feel really bad that he was treated that way because he was always welcoming and he would do anything for anybody, even if it was a million steps out of his way,” said a former student, Athena Ward.

Wallice says he just wanted to provide the representation that he never had growing up.

“It would’ve meant the world to me to have a teacher in this district who was open who was out and who could show students that I’m not some scary unnatural person that you’ve been taught to be scared of I am me I am normal I just happen to love differently,” Wallice said.

We reached out to the Neosho School District, who provided us with a statement saying:

“As per all personnel matters, there is a limited amount of information that is allowed to be shared by the school district. In regards to inquiries regarding Mr. John Wallis, I can share that Mr. Wallis was hired on 8/13/21, and he submitted his resignation on September 1, 2021. Should you wish to view any of our personnel policies, they can be found at https://simbli.eboardsolutions.com/Policy/PolicyListing.aspx?S=332

Sincerely, Dr. Jim R. Cummins Superintendent”