A gay graduate student from Arkansas said he quit his teaching assistant position after hanging up posters that read "Tolerance = Peace," claiming the posters sparked a "hostile work environment" from school officials and students, NBC's Little Rock, Arks. affiliate news station KARK-TV reports.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock grad student, who only identified himself as Michael, said students at Osceola High School complained about the poster to parents, who then contacted school officials.
The math teacher said people took issue with the posters' rainbow peace sign.
"That was the one that drove the controversy from the church group of the assistant superintendent and the principal," he told KAKR-TV. He added he was told the school wasn't "a place to promote that agenda."
Michael said he was "under explicit orders not to talk about" his homosexuality to students.
"I never did. It had nothing to do with mathematics," he said. "Tolerance equals peace. There's nothing gay about that. That's just true."
School officials made him take down the posters and Michael claims the next month of work turned out to be a "hostile work environment."
It got so bad that Michael said he had to resign in September. He and the school district signed a separation agreement, which then sparked problems with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
"They said they would not put me in another internship nor am I allowed to come back to UALR to do an internship," Michael said.
He graded with a Master of Curriculum and Instruction degree without a teaching license, even though he passed the Principles of Learning and Teaching exam. Michael told KARK-TV the college blamed it on a "pattern of misconduct" but said he only received positive feedback at his last two student teacher positions.
"It makes me feel like less of a human," he said. "Everybody else has their advocate. Where's mine?"
Michael is filing a Title IX complaint while pursuing a Master of Mathematics Education degree and working as a teaching assistant at another school.
"I am moving forward, but this just isn't fair," he said. "I can't seem to make this wrong right no matter how hard I try."
Michael added he will not be hanging up any similar posters in the future.
"I'm just too afraid to cause that kind of controversy again," he told KARK-TV.