Crazy liberal teacher.
In math we have been working on discovering different ways to record data, and then comparing the data. (Which has most? How do you know? Which has least? How do you know?) For this game, then, the students would roll a dreidel and record which letter it landed on. At the end we talked about which they rolled the most, the least, etc.
On a dreidel, one of the letters is called "gimmel." So, I was demonstrating the game as we would play it with a student as my partner, while everyone else was watching. One of the students shouted out that the dreidel landed on "gimmel."
"Hey! You said gay!" accused one of the boys.
"No, I said gimmel," the other responded.
"No. You said gay and that's a bad word. He said gay!" continued the first boy.
At the time I was trying to cram this game into the last 10 minutes of school before the PTO came in to give out bags full of candy to the children. Because of this, I didn't go into it the way I wish I had. All I said was, "Gay isn't a bad word." (Which is a problematic response because if they are using the word "gay" as an insult then it needs to be stopped and is not something they should say - so in that sense it's kind of a "bad word" in the way that they understand "bad word," though truly it isn't a bad word.)
Now though, I wish I had taken the time to discuss this. If first graders are already under the impression that "gay" is a bad word, it will be harder to teach them later what it truly means and how it should appropriately be used. If this comes up again, I will stop what we're doing and have a conversation.
I will start by asking what they think "gay" means and why they think it is a bad word. Depending on their responses, I will go on from there. I doubt that any of them really have any concept of what the word means - they probably hear it used as an insult from older siblings
The good thing about having my school close at the end of the year is, I don't really care if I somehow get in trouble for discussing issues with the students that some people may not think are appropriate. Chances are, I won't have a job next year anyway...
I think these kids could handle it though. I wouldn't go into it a lot, I would just define "gay" as a man who likes and wants to marry another man or a woman who likes and wants to marry another woman and tell them that there is nothing wrong with that. (And of course, that's not technically a definition, but it is a concept comprehensible to first graders.) I live in a republican state that recently ammended its constitution, so there would be the potential for backlash from even such a simple (but loaded) definition. But, like I said, I don't know that I'll have a job in the district next year anyway, so why bother holding back teaching what I feel is important? It is in my (unwritten) teaching philosophy to try my hardest to stop prejeduce and clarify misconceptions and that is what I would be doing if this comes up again.