The Utah boy who was berated by his substitute teacher for being adopted by two men is speaking for the first time since the incident last month. In an exclusive interview with “CBS This Morning” co-host Tony Dokoupil, 11-year-old Daniel van Amstel said he “went red” when the teacher insulted his family.
The controversy started when the teacher asked the kids what they’re thankful for.
“I am thankful for my dad and dad, my family, my dogs and everybody that I live with now,” said Daniel, who was officially adopted by Louis and Josh van Amstel Thursday.
“What makes them good dads?” Dokoupil asked.
“They discipline me when I do bad things, they help me, they keep me out of trouble, and they give me sometimes what I want,” Daniel said.
“They love you too, I imagine,” Dokoupil said.
“Uh, yeah,” Daniel said.
Daniel Van Amstel has lived with Louis and Josh for six months. But when he mentioned his pending adoption at his elementary school outside Salt Lake City, the teacher “insulted” his family, Daniel said.
“She first said, ‘Why would you BE happy to be adopted by them?’ And that’s when one of the three kids, ones in my class, they stuck up for me and said let’s stop. But she kept going. And she said, ‘Are you going to be gay?'” Daniel said.
“What was it like to hear the teacher say that there’s something wrong with them?” Dokoupil asked.
“Honestly, I went red. I didn’t like what she said,” Daniel said.
“What does that mean, you went red?” Dokoupil asked.
“I was very mad,” Daniel explained. “Because it isn’t — it’s not right — nice to insult other families, even if you don’t like them. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.”
Asked what he would say to the teacher now, Daniel said, “I would tell her, ‘You should have made better choices in life.'”
Louis van Amstel, who is a professional dancer on “Dancing with the Stars,” struggled to respond through tears when asked what it was like hearing Daniel talk about the incident. He said Daniel’s been through five foster families and one failed adoption and was fearful this one could be in jeopardy, too.
“So he also became red at school because of — ‘I don’t want to get this teacher in trouble because if I get in trouble, my parents will not adopt me.’ So he stayed quiet. The girls stood up for him,” Louis said.
Daniel’s classmates Demi and Sophie said they couldn’t stay silent.
“He was just sitting there quietly answering the questions and looked really scared,” Demi said.
“All of us were uncomfortable and so I didn’t want to be any longer in that situation and so I just had to stop it,” said Sophie, who tried to change the topic in class.
Demi went to the principal’s office. “I was a bit scared to go in there, but after that I knew I was doing the right thing,” she said.
The principal removed the teacher and called Josh.
“Our child had been bullied by a superior, by somebody who was brought in from the school in order to teach these children fifth grade math, fifth grade, you know, English. That she’s not there to teach semantics. She’s not there to teach her personal religious views,” Josh said.
She was later fired by the staffing company she worked for.
“How do you feel about that?” Dokoupil asked Daniel.
“I feel she could have done better. Even if she didn’t like it, she didn’t have to say that. But I’m glad she got her lesson taught. It’s called karma, so,” Daniel said.
“We did not say any of this. This is him,” Louis said, laughing.
But it was Louis who took this conversation public when he shared the story on social media. “We are not letting this go,” he said in a video posted on Twitter.
“All of this is happening against a backdrop in which the Trump administration is trying to make it acceptable and legal for religious organizations to say no to same-sex couples who want to adopt,” Dokoupil said.
“Looking just at this picture, would we be people that agree with that? No,” Louis said. “Look at this young gentleman that would still be in the foster care if it were up to them. Is that what they want?”
“Have you had a chance to talk to the substitute?” Dokoupil asked.
“No. We don’t know her name. We don’t know who she is, but I would love to have lunch with her,” Louis said.
But Daniel disagreed. “I do not like her. If I ever saw her again, I’d probably have a heart attack,” he said.
“Why would she ever say what she said to him before she actually met us? If we’re bad people, and we steal, we do bad things, then she can have an opinion about that. But because we happen to be gay before she met us? Nah. I would love to have lunch with her,” Louis said.
“What did this whole experience teach you about your family, about your school, about your community,” Dokoupil asked Daniel.
“It doesn’t matter what family you have. It just matters if you love them or not. And yes, I do love them,” Daniel said.