Dave Dixon is the Drama teacher at Haralson County High School in Tallapoosa, GA. and has been for four years. In those four years, Mr. Dixon knows that he’s personally responsible for stopping at least three kids from taking their own lives and at least a dozen more who’ve stayed in school because of him. On top of that, he has led the school to many victories in theatre competition (Think Sue Sylvester for the Drama Club set).
Teaching tolerance to his students has always been a high priority for Dixon, having grown up in theatre and having lost several friends to AIDS in the 80s and 90s – and with the current state of things he has tried to step-up the anti-bullying education in his own High School.
Last week, Dixon showed a clip from an award-winning film featuring his friend, openly-gay actor Bruce Hart. The film -“The Reckoning” is about a gay man kidnapped and tortured into revealing information about the gay community. Admittedly, some of the dialogue in the short clip on Hart’s demo reel might be a bit shocking, but according to Dixon “it’s nothing these kids don’t hear or say everyday.” Dixon believes if the film was about heterosexuals using similar language, he would not be attending a hearing this week over his termination.
Dixon told Talk About Equality:
“During this time of so many kids hurting themselves over bullying, I thought it would be a good subject. I was wrong. I teach my students about the human condition in my theater classes, and to play a part means to understand the character. Through that understanding, I hope my students will become more tolerant of all types of people, regardless of background, race, orientation or behavior.”
Charles Needham, the principal of the High School said that his school has “no
more incidents of bullying than any other high school” and doesn’t personally know of any students in his school that are gay. When asked if there was any club or alliance in place for LGBT students, Mr. Needham referred to the “Partners Club,” which from a quick hearing of the club description, appeared to be focused primarily on students with disabilities and/or different “social choices.” Nothing in the club’s description mentioned LGBT students in particular. He refused to comment on Mr. Dixon’s pending termination hearing.
No matter what the outcome of Mr. Dixon’s case, it seems Haralson County High School has some work to do when it comes to being a comfortable place for LGBT students.
UPDATE: We understand that Mr. Dixon was terminated last night. Tonight, Dixon spoke to Talk About Equality:
“I was fired for what they called an ongoing problem of insubordination. They claimed I didn’t follow the rules. Although I can’t remember a specific rule they told me I didn’t follow. Now they state that no teacher can show any film, or film clip, until it has been approved by a supervisor. That means if I teacher finds a teachable moment, a chance to make a difference, but it is not in the lesson plan, then they cannot do it. We are appealing. A lot of the case was about the article in Teaching Tolerance. They claim I have no right to speak my opinion about the school or the system.”
We wish Mr. Dixon luck in his appeal. Any teacher interested in educating about diversity in a community that so desperately needs it, deserves our support.