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D-161 Board accepts resignation from teacher who alleged anti-gay harassment

A mid-year resignation from District 161 teacher Ryan Sinwelski, who alleged anti-gay harassment from a parent and students at Parker Junior High, was accepted by the Flossmoor School Board on Monday, March 11.
The board voted to accept Sinwelski’s resignation and approved other personnel changes after more than an hour in closed session. A new contract for Superintendent Dana Smith was also discussed during the closed session, but no action was taken.
Smith declined to comment on the alleged harassment because the matter is a personnel issue; however, he said the district has been attempting to contact Sinwelski to gather more details and investigate his claims.
“On our end, we want to make sure if there’s any substance to his claims that we find that out and respond appropriately,” he said. “We don’t tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind, ever, and we’re not going to start now.” 
Smith said identifying opportunities to improve school culture is important as well, such as having clear expectations for students and engaging more with parents. 
“Our teachers work incredibly hard,” he said. “We need to value their time, value their efforts and make sure we are doing everything we can to put our teachers in the best position to be successful.” 
Smith also emphasized that the district takes safety concerns seriously.
“It’s important that all of our students, staff and community members feel comfortable in our buildings and know that their physical and mental safety is of the greatest importance to us,” he said.
Sinwelski shared his resignation letter to Facebook and local media outlets when he resigned March 3. He taught at Parker from 2007 to 2009 and returned this school year, teaching French and English language arts.
According to Sinwelski’s letter, he was called to a meeting with administration after a student directed anti-gay jokes toward him, but instead of hearing an apology from the student, he was mocked by the student’s mother with overly effeminate speech and flirtatious gestures.
Sinwelski said the difficult decision he made to resign was fueled by the lack of response from administrators present during the meeting while he was being mocked, as well as having seen “more fights and worse behavior as the year progresses.”
He said he wanted to share his story in the hopes that school leaders will make positive changes.
“Listen to your staff instead of pushing their concerns aside,” Sinwelski urged in his letter. “If no one feels safe in the building, test scores will not improve and real learning will not take place.”

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