MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A former Wilson, Arkansas teacher is suing the state after being fired for talking about sexual education with his students. He's hoping he can lead to changes in policy across the country.
Anthony Bridgeforth described his teaching style at Rivercrest Elementary School: "I was always the disciplinarian, but I would keep things right and fair with them and so they knew that."
He said he wouldn't accept disrespectful behavior, especially when he saw the 6th-graders in his math class texting sexual things to each other, drawing sexual images and trying to watch pornographic material in class.
"Another student was texting a student asking if she wanted to have sex after school," he said.
So, he decided to react with a lesson.
"I started talking to my kids about sexual predators, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, you know, just trying to more or less prevent them from messing themselves up," said Bridgeforth.
But some of the students' parents complained, and the Board of Education decided to fire him last May — decision he said is unjust, as the school had no formal sexual education policy.
"They've basically left a grey area and they just, it's just assumed teachers handle it," he said. "Any teacher with any experience has had to pull a child aside and deal with an issue that's not academic."
He said he's broken up fights and reported suicidal students and doesn't understand why this is different. There's no mandatory policy across the board for sexual education.
He said his speech still promoted abstinence, as required in Arkansas. He's now suing for $3 million with the hopes of making change.
"I'm trying to push the state of Arkansas to save their kids, I mean again, do we need something worse than AIDS to actually take action?" he said.
Research shows the number of teen pregnancies and STDs is higher in Arkansas than places with sexual education programs, stats he'll be using in his lawsuit.
WREG reached out to the school district, but we have not heard back.
The state Board of Education only referred us to its online policies, which show each district can create its own programs.