A Kansas art teacher said a series of threatening, homophobic letters prompted him to resign from his job and relocate to another state.
Michael Hill, who taught visual arts at Nemaha Central High School in Seneca, Kansas, said he began receiving the messages shortly after he came out as gay to his students last year on Oct. 11, which is National Coming Out Day. Hill posted images of the three letters, all of which were sent anonymously, to his Facebook page on Tuesday.
“Homosexuals should not be teaching our kids, in fact I don’t believe they should be teachers at all they are perverts and predators. ... You need to be fired and you can take your gay ideas with you,” one letter reads.
Another says, “Queers will burn and so will you. Don’t think my friends and I still ain’t after you.”
Hill, who is a Kansas native and father of two, announced his resignation and move to Palm Springs, California, in the same Facebook post, which had received more than 2,700 shares as of Thursday afternoon.
Hill, who had taught in the school district since 2009, told HuffPost that he took the first letter to the administration “immediately” after receiving it. “Initially I felt supported,” he said. “But that support waned as time wore on.”
The teacher said the second and third letters ― both of which mentioned his work as a teacher ― were sent to his home address, after which he contacted local law enforcement. Although Hill called their response “a bit lackluster,” he acknowledged, “I understand that there was not much to go on due to the anonymity of the letters with no return address. It was more of an incident report.”
A culprit or culprits in the alleged incidents have not been identified, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.
In January, after he said he’d received the second letter, Hill began seven weeks of unpaid medical leave, which he said was “related to the threats and stress created by the situation.”
When the third letter arrived while he was on leave, he said, “I knew it was time to go. I couldn’t continue to stay in a situation that was causing me so much stress and anxiety.”
Darrel Kohlman, superintendent of the Nemaha Central Unified School District 115, told HuffPost that Hill’s resignation was “a loss” for the school. Still, he stressed there was “no indication” that the letters came from a student, a staff member or anyone else with direct ties to Nemaha Central High.
“Michael was, and is, a very good art teacher. This, by no means, was something that we wanted to happen,” Kohlman said.
“Any incidents that we thought had any connection to the school, we did address, and would’ve continued to had Michael come back and completed the year,” the superintendent continued. Noting that Nemaha Central aims to “teach our students about tolerance,” he added, “We felt like we were supporting him in doing what we could do.”
Hill, however, disputes this. “I think there were options put forth to the administration and school board that would have been agreeable and not costly to the district, but they chose not to go that route,” he said. Weighing what he could do ― “return to the school knowing full well that the perpetrator had not been identified, be terminated for failing to complete my contract, or resign” ― he said he decided to leave.
LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Kansas shared Hill’s Facebook post to its page on Thursday. The group said his case served to emphasize the fact that Kansas has no anti-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation and gender identity.
“This is why we fight,” Equality Kansas wrote. “This is the environment created by lawmakers and others who see us as second-class citizens ― or less.”
Now happily in California, Hill said he hopes his story will make people “think about the way they treat other people.”
“The LGBTQ community is facing a backlash from a sector in our country and we can’t stop fighting for equality,” he said. “If my story can help in the fight or help encourage one person to be true to themselves, it’s a story worth telling.”