Middle school students in Pennsylvania are protesting the dismissal of a teacher who reportedly provided them with a hotline for LGBTQ+ students as a resource to draw upon.
Students of Doylestown’s Lenape Middle School protested outside the building on Tuesday, calling on the school to reinstate social studies teacher Andrew Burgess, according to Channel 9. Burgess’ sudden firing came on Friday, shortly after the eighth grade teacher reportedly gave a transgender student, who was being bullied, resources for support outside the district.
“It was kind of like a slap in the face to everyone that would go to him and stuff for, because I would consistently go to him for when I was being bullied and harassed within our school,” said one of the student demonstrators.
“It was simply a hotline number, just in case the person needed help,” said another.
One protester told Channel 9 that Burgess is “one of the biggest allies of this school,” saying that he “supports all students in every way, and a lot of people go to him.”
As of this writing, nearly 4,000 people have signed an online petition to have Burgess rehired by the school administration.
“Mr.burgess a Lenape middle school history teacher has been suspended with pay pending a further investigation for giving a trans student a phone number to call if they felt unsafe or bullied,” the petition states. “Make no mistake this is an act of homophobia and needs he needs to be re instated right away.”
The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) confirmed to Channel 9 that Burgess has been put on administrative leave.
Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
On Tuesday, the superintendent of the Central Bucks School District, Abe Lucabaugh attempted to dispute that Burgess was fired for being LGBTQ+.
“There is a narrative out there that the district has punished an employee for being a supporter of LGBTQ+ students,” Lucabaugh said. “That narrative is offensive and false.”
“I care very deeply about how kids feel, and we want to do a better job with it, but that narrative does not help,” the superintendent added in an interview with the Courier Times.
Burgess’ dismissal appears to be part of a broader national trend of public school teachers being fired for speaking to students on matters of race, gender, and sexuality.
Just last week, a Florida teacher was let go for telling students she was pansexual after they asked her about her sexuality, according to NBC News. And last month, a gay substitute teacher was fired for handing out Pride bracelets to high school students.’