Teacher accused of ‘grooming’ for showing kids loving same-sex families and picture of pregnant man

Several LGBTQ+ themed flashcards are depicted on the page. One shows the progressive Pride flag, another says pink while depicting a happy queer Black family with two children and a third depicts a pregnant short haired person being held by their partner with the word 'white' written above

A North Carolina teacher has resigned amid a controversy over the use of LGBTQ-themed flashcards to teach inclusivity and colours in her preschool classroom. 

The preschool teacher, who has not been identified by the Wake County school system, resigned from Ballentine Elementary School in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. Wake County Public School System spokesperson Lisa Luten told WRAL that the district was “concerned to learn of the inappropriate instructional resource” found in the preschool classroom. 

“An initial review determined that flashcards were not tied to the district’s Pre-K curriculum, did not complement, enrich or extend the curriculum and were used without the principal’s review, knowledge and/or approval,” Luten added. 

Luten also said that extra security was stationed in the school after the backlash against the LGBTQ+ flashcards. 

The backlash started to mount against the school after state House speaker Tim Moore said he’d been informed about the flashcard by Republican representative Erin Paré.

Moore released a statement on Friday (27 May) in which he said a “concerned constituent” emailed Paré about the LGBTQ+ flashcards – including one he said depicted a “pregnant man” – which were being used to teach colours to kids in a preschool class. 

Several colourful LGBTQ+ themed flashcards are pictures that showcase different inclusive and diverse families that are depicted wearing clothes that correspond to the colour on the card

The LGBTQ+ themed cards were reportedly used in a Ballentine Elementary School preschool classroom to teach about colours. (WRAL)

Paré said in an interview with Fox News that “loving families come in all different shapes and sizes” and that “kids need loving families right now”. But she drew the line at the card’s depiction of a pregnant person with short hair being embraced by their partner. 

“But I think when you’re looking at a card in front of a preschooler that has a mommy hugging a daddy with a baby in his belly, that’s just not age-appropriate material to be showing preschoolers, and I’m glad that this principal and the district acted immediately,” Paré said. 

Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert also joined the pile-on against the teacher on Twitter and alleged it was an example of how “the Left” are “grooming” children. 

“A North Carolina preschool is using LGBT flag flashcards with a pregnant man to teach kids colors,” Boebert wrote. “We went from Reading Rainbow to Randy Rainbow in a few decades, but don’t dare say the Left is grooming our kids!”

But one parent has shared her devastation that her child was losing the teacher. Jackie Milazzo, who has a three-year-old son in the class, told WRAL that the preschool educator was “one of the most remarkable teachers I have ever met” and it was “such a loss for our community”. 

She described how parents were crying and hugging each other after they learned that the teacher was resigning over the LGBTQ+ flashcards. 

Milazzo added in a separate interview for ABC 11 that the preschool kids are “being used as a publicity stunt” by conservative lawmakers. 

“We are not upset about what’s in the classroom,” Milazzo said. “I know a lot of the community at Ballentine Elementary aren’t upset about this being in the classroom.”

She added that a “picture of a same-sex couple” doesn’t “make my child unsafe” but the horrific waves of hate she’s received do. 

“I’ve been receiving messages that our teachers are groomers, my child is being brainwashed… like how am I supposed to feel safe sending my child to school like this?” Milazzo said.

“These actions are not supporting our schools, they’re not supporting our teachers, they’re not supporting our kids, my child has now lost his teacher.”

A person wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses holds up a sign that reads 'Say gay' in colourful letters and a tiny rainbow underneath

The North Carolina Senate is set to debate legislation – dubbed a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill – that would stop discussions on LGBTQ+ issues in classrooms in the state. (Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty)

The backlash comes as Republican lawmakers are considering a bill (HB 755) that would prevent instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade classrooms. 

The legislation – which has been dubbed a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill by LGBTQ+ advocates – would also require parents to be notified if a student chooses to change their name, update their pronouns or use school counselling services.

The Reverend Vance Haywood, senior pastor of St John’s Metropolitan Community Church in Raleigh, said the bill “proposes forced outing of queer kids”, the Associated Press reported. 

“It’s creating an environment where we’re telling folks that it’s not OK to be yourself,” Haywood said. “You have to hide parts of who you are.”

Democratic governor Roy Cooper told legislators to “keep the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ culture wars out of North Carolina classrooms”

He described the legislation as “another Republican political ploy” similar to House Bill 2 – a 2016 anti-trans bathroom bill signed by Republican governor Pat McCroy – which would “hurt our people and cost us jobs”.

The bill has passed through the Senate Rules Committee and is expected to receive a debate and vote on Wednesday before the Republican-controlled Senate.