Forest Lake High School Spanish teacher Kelly Wing, who had recently come under some scrutiny due to several Facebook posts attributed to him that were deemed homophobic by some current and former students, resigned his teaching position effective Jan. 5, according to district public affairs consultant Ross Bennett.
The social media posts prompted the Twitter hashtag #FireKellyWing and also led to a petition calling for his termination. At the time of the social media controversy, Wing’s classes were all being taught by a substitute, but the district would not comment on whether his absence was because of the posts or another reason.
“The district’s investigation regarding this former employee has ended, as a result of his resignation,” Bennett wrote in an email. “Because we are legally bound by the Minnesota Data Practices Act, we are prohibited from releasing any information about the nature of the investigation or allegations, as it is not public data. What we can say is that we have policies, procedures and training in place to assist staff members in meeting the school district’s expectations.”
Max Hall, a 2013 Forest Lake graduate, was one of the first people to bring the social media controversy to the attention of The Times. His original response to the posts was focused on the fact that he believes any intolerance is wrong. Hall said that he wanted to make sure Wing was held accountable for his alleged actions.
“I am pleased to hear that Kelly Wing has resigned from the Forest Lake School District over inflammatory and derogatory language that greatly harms young students, particularly young women and LGBT students,” he said. “Intolerance, hate, and discrimination cannot be allowed in our schools or other facets of our society and must be condemned not condoned. People charged with protecting and educating young people ought to ensure their public comments do not express these aforementioned traits.”
Another prominent voice that came out of the controversy was that of 2011 graduate Cina Dean. Dean was a part of a group of students who say they received pushback from Wing when they attempted to start a gay-straight alliance group during the 2008-09 school year (learn more about her specific complaints and the thoughts of other alumni in the Dec. 22, 2016 story “Students speak out against teacher’s Facebook remarks” or online at tinyurl.com/gwp6q3b).
“Six years ago, the district had the opportunity to step in and protect me from the damaging statements that Kelly Wing made to me,” she wrote to The Times. “Instead, the district protected Kelly Wing’s reputation and for six years, allowed him to continue making inappropriate remarks in his classroom.”
When it came to protecting Wing, she specifically mentioned the current principal of the Forest Lake Area High School, Steve Massey.
“Six years ago, after my complaint about Kelly Wing, Dr. Massey asserted to me that every classroom in his school was a safe space,” she wrote. “It was that same negligence that has caused six years’ worth of students at Forest Lake High School to suffer. Now that Kelly Wing has resigned, I hope the Forest Lake community takes a closer look at why their students were not protected.”
Massey also released a statement regarding the complaints that the high school had not offered a safe environment.
“We are committed to providing a safe classroom and school environment for every student,” he wrote. “We take student concerns seriously and respond by listening, investigating, and addressing concerns.”
Like Bennett, Massey noted that the sharing or publicizing of specific actions taken by the high school regarding complaints about teachers are limited by the guidelines of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
“Our responses to concerns may or may not be known or evident to students or others,” Massey wrote. “Over the last number of years, we have provided multiple and ongoing training sessions for staff on equity, culture, and climate and will continue to build upon the positive school environment at Forest Lake Area High School and throughout the district.”