Ashland Art Teacher/LGBTQ Advisor Back On Job After Community Rally, Board Decision

Bob Graf said he's grateful for the support and being offered a contract for the next school year

ASHLAND, Wis. — Around 70 students, parents and some teachers within the Ashland School District spoke out in protest Wednesday evening in support of an art teacher and LGBTQ co-advisor who was recently put on paid administrative leave and faced non-renewal of his contract after unsubstantiated allegations of being a “pedophile” and a “groomer.”

During the eight o’clock hour, that teacher, Bob Graf, exited the district building and said the school board decided to keep him on board as the art teacher and co-advisor to the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA).

The evening started around 5:30 p.m. with the large protest outside the district’s administrative building.  Adults, students, both male and female, were gathered.  Some were holding LGBTQ supportive signs and flags.

Graf briefly thanked everyone for their support before he entered the building for a 5:45 p.m. internal hearing of sorts about his potential dismissal from the district. He said both sides presented their evidence about the complaints.

Organizers of the protest told FOX 21 that losing Graf from the district would be a loss of a voice for young students struggling to find their identity.

Video from Wednesday’s Protest below:

“Bob was always there. He always made us feel better. He was kind, supportive of us all. No matter who you are, what you look like, who you love – anyone,” explained Dorian Foster-Reimer, a 15-year-old high school student. “He helped so many people, including me, get out of their shell about being who they truly are, and so many people found themselves in that room,” Dorian explained of the GSA room.

“If we were distracted or something, he always makes sure that we’re OK, and I have a lot of friends as well who really miss him, and he’s like the best teacher,” said Winniferd Foster-Reimer, Dorian’s 13-year-old sister and student at Ashland Middle School.

Full interview with the Foster-Reimer sisters below:

When Graf exited the meeting with the board after 8 p.m., he told FOX 21 and others waiting outside that he was relieved to be renewed for the next school year. He said he appreciated the community’s support publicly and the many letters they sent to the board while he was on paid administrative leave for the past month.

Graf said the district needed to investigate him after allegations of inappropriate touching of students were reported, including accusations of being a “pedophile” and “groomer.”

He said he denies all accusations and believes they come from people who do not like his overwhelming support of the LGBTQ-plus community within the school.

“Absolutely ecstatic… The hardest thing about the last month and being out has been being away from my kids,” Graf said. “Unfortunately, adolescents at this age in the middle school – they’re just learning about a lot these things. So sometimes they’re just trying it out. Sometimes they don’t understand what they literally mean and we have a lot of education.”

“But there are some students who weaponize it, you know, and I said this in here and I would say it anywhere, unfortunately there are people who feel like winner, winner chicken dinner, if I make an accusation, I can get that teacher out of my room. And that’s really unfortunately and we really need, especially staff and parents, to get together and be on the same page … and we want to make sure that they’re moving forward for success,” Graf explained.

Graf’s full interview below:

FOX 21 reached out to Supt. Robert Prater and his assistant twice Wednesday and once Thursday for comment on this story, but we did not hear back.

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