Louisiana high school teacher Jonathan Koeppel spoke out recently against the gender identity ideology being promoted at his school. A video of his remarks at a school board meeting quickly went viral.
During the meeting in April, Koeppel played an audio clip for the school board from an education app the school uses, called “BrainPOP,” in which students were advised to refer to individuals as “they” if the student didn’t know that individual’s “preferred” pronouns.
“I would have thought that this is only happening in California or in New Jersey, New York, and the more progressive—what I would call—progressive states,” said Koeppel, who teaches in the St. Tammany Parish Public Schools system.
Not only is the school allowing a far-left ideology to be pushed on children, but it’s also teaching students incorrect grammar, he said.
Koeppel joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to explain why he chose to speak out and how the school board, parents, and other teachers responded to his remarks.
We also cover these stories:
- President Joe Biden gives a speech in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on closing the racial wealth gap.
- Former President Barack Obama says that Biden is finishing the work of his administration.
- In a message for Gay Pride Month, Biden calls out former President Donald Trump and conservative states for passing legislation that bans biological males from participating in girls and women’s sports.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: I am joined by Louisiana high school teacher Jonathan Koeppel. During a school board meeting in April, Mr. Koeppel spoke out against the gender identity education being taught to students at his school. Jonathan, thanks so much for joining us today.
Jonathan Koeppel: Yeah, I’m very humbled that you guys would have me.
Allen: Your school is using an education application called BrainPOP. You discovered that this product is teaching students about gender identity and you decided that you were going to speak out. So let’s go ahead and take a listen to the video that you recorded and posted on YouTube of what you had to say at your school’s board meeting back in April.
Allen: All right. So, Jonathan, could you just give us a little bit of context here? What is this app BrainPOP that your school district has students using?
Koeppel: Yeah. So, to give you guys some context, in Louisiana, we have what’s called a parish, every district inside of a particular parish. Where I’m at in St. Tammany we have, I think, 13, maybe 14 school districts in that one parish. And we have like six high schools, it could be seven, don’t quote me on that. But we have a lot of schools, a lot of elementary, a lot of middle schools, junior highs. We have a ton.
And at my school we don’t actually use BrainPOP because BrainPOP is more of a children’s program and it’s used for children. I discovered it a year ago when I worked for an aftercare program.
I remember the lady I was helping out, I was working with, brought the kids to a computer lab and said, “OK, guys, if you’re done your homework, get on BrainPOP and watch some videos.” And that’s what the kids did for 30 minutes, they just watched a bunch of different videos on BrainPOP.
The elementary schools where I’m at in my parish use BrainPOP, or used, past tense, because from what I understand, some schools are actually getting rid of BrainPOP, they’re not using it because the parents were not happy when they found out the stuff that was being taught by that particular company.
It’s like a web platform that makes videos, educational videos, and sometimes the videos are great, but the company does have their own agenda and they push it to children.
That’s really what kind of got me upset, was when I realized they were pushing this gender identity issue—where you could be whatever gender you want to be, apart from male or female, which to me is ridiculous—and then they were telling kids about [how] systemic racism is wiping out a chance for a black child to be successful in life and making that kid think he’s a victim or she’s a victim at such a young age, I thought that was just unbelievable. So that’s really what caused me to do what I did.
Allen: I think it’s interesting that at any age level, whether that was younger kids or high schoolers, I think that would be like, “OK, this isn’t OK.” But the fact that this is targeted at such a young age demographic is pretty disturbing.
Koeppel: Yeah, you’re right. It’s sick. It really is sick. …
I spoke again at another board meeting because there’s some other things going on as well, but when I think about this, it’s like, they’re not targeting me as an adult and trying to convince me of what they believe and their agendas, they’re pushing what they believe and their agenda onto children who have minds that are like sponges and just absorb, absorb, absorb. They don’t have a developed frontal lobe. They can’t make decisions on their own just yet.
It’s really sick when I think about it and I guess when you think about it, too, it doesn’t make sense. Why would they target children with this?
Allen: What was your motivation to say, “OK, I’m going to speak out at this school board meeting and be really honest and open about my thoughts on this”?
Koeppel: Well, somebody like myself, I would have thought that this is only happening in California or in New Jersey, New York, and more … what I would call progressive states. I didn’t think that it was where I live. I didn’t realize that. And as soon as I did, I said, “Oh, my God, I don’t think anybody around here has a clue that this stuff is already in our schools.”
And I guarantee you, that’s not the only company, that’s not the only curriculum, that’s not the only educational programs that are pushing this on kids. I found another one, the kids came to me and showed me one that was used in the high school where I work at that was pushing this left-wing agenda to teenagers.
So, it’s so common and prevalent today that somebody’s got to sound the alarm. And I said, “You know what? That’s me, I’m going to do it. I don’t have a problem with it, whatever happens happens. But somebody’s got to do [it] and what better person than somebody from the classroom, from within the school system?”
Allen: Yeah. Well, you’ve received a lot of press for choosing to speak out. You did a fantastic interview with The Daily Caller discussing this issue. But what feedback have you been receiving from students and parents at your school and in your school district?
Koeppel: The parents have been awesome. I’ve gotten emails from parents.
So, in south Louisiana, church is a big deal, everybody’s connected. We know somebody from this church or that church or family, cousin, whatever, it’s a small community. I’m finding out that different people in Bible studies that somehow know my mom or go to the gym with somebody that I know, they’re all talking about and praying for me and just telling me how much they support me through other people.
From parents in the community, it’s been great.
The kids at the high school, I can’t be specific about it, but a lot of the kids are very hyped up about it. When they saw my video go viral, they were the ones who told me it was viral. I didn’t know it was viral until they told me.
And it was very difficult to get their attention because they were just so infatuated with the fact that their teacher was this, like, internet sensation. So I had a couple of days where I couldn’t really get them to focus well because they just would not stop talking about the video.
But from what I’ve seen, a lot of the kids have been kind of supportive of the message. Of course, there are kids who are maybe of the other thought process where they were not in agreement with what I said. And I can’t really tell you what they do, what they don’t do, but there’s kids that were happy with it and kids that were not happy with it.
Allen: What about the school board or your colleagues that you work with? Have they said anything to you about it? Are they glad that you’ve spoken out?
Koeppel: What’s really interesting is at first nobody said anything. And the past, I would say two weeks, people have been coming to me like in secret almost. Or if they saw me when nobody was around, they’d kind of look and say, “Hey, man, I appreciate what you said. That was great,” shake my hand, whatever, like, “We’re with you. If we need to do something together, you just let us know, we’ll step up.”
So I’ve been getting a lot of this secret love, secret support from my colleagues, because I guess they don’t want to be maybe labeled or marginalized by other colleagues. So that’s been interesting.
Now, the school board, I thought it was so weird. The superintendent reached out to my principal for my principal to reach out to me and ask me, where did I get this information from? I’m like, why don’t you just contact me directly since I’m the guy with the evidence and I can tell you where it came from?
It seemed like some members of the school board were not happy at all that I spoke up. And then when the video went viral, somebody passed a motion to end public comment at school board meetings to get rid of that ability to speak openly to the school board.
And yeah, somebody was not happy about it. There’s two members in particular and then some consultant and then a couple of them who wanted to vote and move forward with it. It did get shot down, but some school board members [were] not happy at all.
Allen: Do you think that that’s probably the individuals who are really driving this kind of ideology and are the ones … maybe intimidating others to move forward with some of these really progressive ideas?
Koeppel: I don’t know if it’s that or if it’s the fact that they just want total control and don’t want the community to really be involved in the decision-making process. I don’t know if it’s because they want to push this woke curriculum to kids. I don’t know that, I can’t speak for them.
I can say that when you want to shut the mouths of the people who voted you in, that says a lot about you, when you don’t want to hear from them in open public forum. So that’s kind of my take on that.
Allen: Do you think that all the members of the school board were aware that this kind of information, what was being taught on this application, BrainPOP, was what students were learning, that they were learning about gender ideology and these progressive ideas?
Koeppel: To be extremely honest, I do not believe that any one of them had a clue or were aware of this. It could be possible that one or two of them may have heard something, but might’ve never checked it out or never investigated it. I don’t think they really knew that these videos were just so blunt and just blatantly out there for the kids to see.
Allen: Yeah, yeah. You say in that clip that we listened to that public schools should not be political indoctrination camps. What other ways do you see public education become these indoctrination camps?
Koeppel: Yeah. So, this is actually what I addressed in the second meeting that was last week. We have teachers dividing classrooms.
What I mean by that is, you have a parent who’s a police officer and the parent’s kid is at school being told that we need to defund the police and police are bad and there’s so much police brutality and all the police are this and that. And that kid is literally marginalized by the teacher and harassed by the teacher because the kid disagrees, the kid’s dad’s a good dad, good cop.
So, anybody that agrees with the teacher is the teacher’s friend, and if you disagree with what the teacher’s spitting out, you become the teacher’s enemy.
There was one specific scenario that I met with the parents, I talked with them. They addressed the teacher that was spewing liberal ideology in class, just left-wing ideas, the whole systemic racism—that white people are oppressing black people, black people are victims of white people.
And the girl disagrees with the teacher and then the parent contacts the teacher, wants to know what’s going on, “Please, can we maybe not do this in class? Keep that to yourself.” Well, the girl’s grades start changing, going from an A to B student, down to a D’s and F’s, and then the kid is targeted and written up as if the kid has depression.
So the teacher writes to go get the kid checked out for mental problems after the parent just is trying to get involved and say, “Hey, I heard what’s going on in class. I don’t think that’s appropriate for children.” So the classrooms are not politically neutral right now. And teachers are using their classrooms as political platforms to push their views.
And again, they don’t come to me and talk to me and knock on my door. “Hey, Mr. Koeppel, I work down the hall. I heard you believe this, and I believe this, can we have a conversation about it?” That never happens. They just push their views on kids.
I think it’s disgusting and they need to be held accountable because if that happened at any other job, you’d likely be fired. You can’t work at the grocery store and start preaching your political views to customers, that’ll get you fired. You come to work to do your job.
So what we have are teachers not doing their jobs. They’re acting like political activists on school campuses. And this is across every grade level. I mean, I’ve heard from people not just from my area, at first it was from my area, now I’ve heard from parents and students from all over the country about this stuff happening and it’s sick.
Allen: And you’ve been a teacher now for three years. Have you seen the school environment and the curriculum change in just that short period of time?
Koeppel: Well, to me, school has always been, from when I was in high school, I always thought it was kind of a more liberal or more left-leaning environment. And then the last place that I worked at, there was a teacher who was also the rep for the union in that region, he had toilet paper with Donald Trump’s face on it, and he brought it to school and he paraded it to us, the teachers, and he had it featured in his classroom for all the kids to see.
So you have stuff like that that’s very common, where people just blatantly let you know their political views. I’m not talking about having a, if you like Hillary Clinton or if you like Joe Biden, you have a picture of him, that’s nothing crazy to me, that’s nothing unusual. But you’re talking about a guy that has the president’s face on toilet paper and parading it to kids. So that, I’ve seen that.
I’ve had kids come up to me and approach me about things that their teachers are telling them that they’re scared to talk to anybody else about because they feel like they’re going to be harassed and discriminated against. So it’s kind of a hostile environment.
Now, not every teacher is like that. You might have a great school with mostly great teachers, but you have a handful of them that are just these woke activists.
Allen: Since that school board meeting when you spoke out, do you know if the school board is considering, “OK, maybe we shouldn’t use BrainPOP,” or, “There’s other avenues, we should look into different forms of curriculum or be more aware of what we’re actually teaching kids”?
Koeppel: I don’t know what they’re doing. I do know that there was an email sent to teachers at one elementary school that that particular school was canceling BrainPOP. They’re not going to use it. They won’t be using it.
There’s a private school near where I live, it’s a big, big private school, everything from grade school to high school, they have a lot of kids. They found out about BrainPOP, they canceled BrainPOP. So different schools, public and private, are starting to look into that and getting rid of it.
My school board, if they’re doing anything, it’s all hush, hush. I doubt, I sincerely doubt that they’re investigating or looking into that because they don’t seem very proactive, from what we’ve experienced here. So I doubt they’re really doing anything intentionally.
They said—when I say “they” I’m talking about the superintendent because I can’t speak for 14 people on the board. The superintendent had no idea that this was in any of the schools and then made it sound like it wasn’t even being used by any kids. When I talked to parents, people I work with, their kids use BrainPOP at their entire elementary school and middle school. So it’s a weird situation.
Allen: Are you optimistic that public education can course-correct here and that we can kind of move back to a central point of view where we’re not indoctrinating students with political ideology?
Koeppel: I would hope so, but the problem is all the people going into the educating them. Now, I can’t say all of them, but the majority of people going into the education field happen to be these activist figures, and I hate to use the word liberal, but there’s a lot of liberals in education, going into education, administration, a lot of liberal administrators and principals, and political neutrality is out of the window now.
It’s almost as if we’re living in two different worlds where we have, I would say three, we have the conservative, the people with conservative views; people with liberal views; and then you have people in the middle who are kind of just oblivious and don’t really care about what’s going on and they don’t want to be bothered and they’re just trying to live their life.
Well, I’m just trying to live my life, but how can I do that when we have grown men and women teaching little children—and I don’t know if you saw the video Prager put out where they showed the article about having knitted genitalia to give to kids, to let them know if they want to change their genders or be whatever, there’s like a hundred different genders. Adults are giving kids little genitalia parts to play with, to practice being different genders. So we’re living in a sick world and it’s hard to say, it’s really hard to say.
I’m a hopeful, optimistic person, but things are getting so crazy right now that it literally feels like we are living in two different worlds with almost two warring groups of people, and I don’t mean physically with, like, guns, but there’s definitely a war, a culture war happening and a war for the minds of the youth of this nation.
Allen: Yeah. Jonathan, we really appreciate you joining the show today and letting us know what’s going on down in Louisiana.
Koeppel: Well, hey, thank you so much for having me. And it’s been a pleasure.