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School Board Bans Book for Mentioning Gay Families Exist

4 Jun

Me, circa 1982.

I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and I knew from a very young age that I was different from the other kids. My story starts off like many of yours. I read all the storybooks you read, saw all the Disney Princess movies you saw and I knew there was a reason I liked Bo & Luke so much more than Daisy.

When I was 10, I started performing in musicals and at 11, I was in a Longwood Opera production of Gianni Schicchi. At the cast party, a very tall slender African American man was talking to my mother. Another man came up next to him and was introduced as his “lover.” Of course I knew what they meant, but I’d never seen someone who was gay. Not in any book, or Disney movie or TV show. This was a first for me. It was the first time in my childhood I didn’t think there was something wrong with me.

In Erie, IL yesterday, the Erie School Board voted to ban Todd Parr’s “The Family Book” from it’s elementary school. The book tells young children that families are different. It speaks of large and small families, families with of different ethnicities, single-parent families, families with adopted children and then of course…the most terrifying of all “Some families have two moms or two dads.” It’s this single line which caused such a stir in Erie, Illinois, that the school board has taken the book off the shelves. Parents called and complained that children that young should not be taught this kind of material. It’s okay if it’s taught to older children, but not younger kids who are potentially picking on other kids because they have two moms or two dads.

It seems that due to the complaints of just 4 parents, the Erie School Board, led by School Board President Charlie Brown decided to ban the book.

Brown additionally took to Facebook to endorse putting “the Bible back in schools,” as seen here in the screenshot:


I spoke with Zach Wahls, the young man from Iowa who courageously defended his own lesbian parents and their family about this story and he responded:

“As the grown son of a lesbian couple who attended public K-12, this is both frustrating and frightening. For the board of a school district to say that my family structure is an ‘issue’ that shouldn’t be included ‘at the elementary school level’ not only fails to explain why that’s the case but also alienates the students in that district who do have two moms or dads. This is another startling reminder of the fact that not all bullies are just adolescent kids: some of them grow up to be school board presidents”

Erie School Board President Charles Brown

Additionally some educators from the elementary school where the book was banned made statements. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they feared they couldn’t do so publicly without risking their jobs.

“As an educator at the elementary, I am very disappointed that the GLSEN materials and Todd Parr books won’t be used again. They were excellent resources for the diversity unit and completely age appropriate. At no time was there anything mentioned that was inappropriate. The elementary level is the perfect time to teach acceptance and respect for everyone and all types of families. I am also very disappointed that these materials were taken away from everyone due to a small group of parents that opposed it. The best option would have been to leave the materials in place and those that wanted their children to opt out do so. By banning materials and books, we are not moving in the right direction. I am very saddened by the whole situation!”

Sean Leeds, a former student in the district, has started a petition at Change.org. In it, he requests that the school board reconsider their actions. Please tell School Board President Charles Brown that all families matter. As of now, more than 100 Erie parents have signed another petition asking for the reinstatement of both the book and other anti-bullying educational materials.

BULLY: The Only Thing That’s Changed is the Part in His Hair

11 May

When Mitt Romney was 18 years old, he was a bully. A story in the Washington Post goes into great detail about a time when a high school-aged Romney lead a screaming mob of students to chase, pin to the floor and then physically assault a fellow student they assumed to be gay. They took a pair of scissors and chopped off his hair after Romney observed “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong! Just look at him!”

We’ve heard this story all over the internet, on every news station and paper for the past few days. Romney has of course, brushed off the incident. “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far…” In another interview, Romney laughed through his responses when questioned on his participation in the anti-gay assault. He also found it funny when he was questioned about teasing a closeted gay student by responding “Atta Girl!” to the young man’s responses in the classroom. He impressively remembered the detail that he didn’t think of his fellow student as gay, but strangely couldn’t remember that time he chased him down and chopped off all his hair.

Those defending Romney are parroting his responses, passing off what a kid today would get arrested for as silly teenage pranks. And it’s true. Kids do stupid things. As a friend put it today, “that’s why kids are tried in court as kids.” It certainly doesn’t excuse their behavior, but we have a cultural understanding that growing up means maturing and evolving in your views and your actions. The problem here is that Romney hasn’t evolved. His bullying of gay people has continued well-into his adulthood. He may not be leading mobs to assault defenseless teenagers, but he’s certainly working to make sure we remain pinned to the floor, the scissors posed just next to our faces.

As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney had to make some compromises. On several occasions, he purported to support the LGBT community including the endorsement of an LGBT Youth Rally on Boston Common, his support of Gay Pride (which his campaign has thoroughly denied despite the evidence), and a declaration of support for full federal equality for gays & lesbians when he ran for Senate against Ted Kennedy.

What we didn’t see then though, according to a 2006 Boston Globe article, was a virulently anti-gay Romney seeking to curtail the state’s initiatives to support LGBT youth:

“Angered that his name appeared on a press release touting a gay pride parade, Governor Mitt Romney moved yesterday to curtail the activities of a 14-year-old advisory commission on gay and lesbian youth.

The commission chairwoman, Kathleen M. Henry, said she was called yesterday by Beth Myers, the governor’s chief of staff, who told her that the governor planned to issue an executive order ”revoking our existence” and creating another youth commission whose purview would be all of the state’s youth, not just gays and lesbians. The commission would have all new members, she said.”

His anti-gay actions as governor of Massachusetts didn’t end there. He went on to veto funding for “intervention services and crisis housing for sexual violence in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community,” according to a 2006 article in the Patriot Ledger. In 2003 & 2004, Romney also vetoed funding for suicide prevention and intervention efforts in the state, according to government documents.

As has also been recently discovered that Romney made a $10,000 contribution to the anti-gay hate group, National Organization for Marriage (NOM). The contribution was to aid NOM in their efforts to take marriage rights away from California citizens. Strangely enough, NOM failed to report the Governor’s contribution and an investigation has been demanded.

Romney also joked about the time his father shut down a factory in Michigan, leaving hundreds out of work.

Romney’s lack of respect for the life of those he sees beneath him doesn’t end with gay youth and those who wish to marry. Romney has also brushed off his actions as a dog owner when he strapped his Irish Setter’s crate to the roof of their station wagon for hours of driving. In 1983, the family drove from Boston to Ontario, Canada with the dog defacating all over himself and sitting in the crate for hours. The Romneys pulled over, hosed the dog off and put the now-wet Irish Setter back in the crate and continued their journey. When asked if he’d do it again, Romney laughed and responded “well, not with all the attention it’s received.”

Romney doesn’t mind actively harming others, whether it be pinning a person to the ground and assaulting him with scissors or  clearly taking the life of your own dog for granted. Romney’s responses to his horrific actions as both a young person and an adult clearly prove that he hasn’t grown up. Yes, kids can be horrible and people make mistakes, and we forgive them. But when a man who spends his entire life taking pleasure and even glee in seeing others suffer, we don’t excuse that. And we certainly don’t elect that man to be the most powerful bully person in the world.

VIDEO: Anti-Gay Ministry Hired to Speak at Iowa High School

13 Mar

We’ve spoken here before about Bradlee Dean, the violently anti-gay rocker/radio host who sued Rachel Maddow and MSNBC when Maddow played a clip on her show. The clip was Dean’s voice, quite clearly claiming that it is moral to execute homosexuals. Dean sued because she didn’t also report a disclaimer he’d posted essentially denying his own words.

Anyway, Junkyard Prophet, a project of Dean’s anti-gay “You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide” Ministries, was asked to “perform” at a public high school in Dunkerton, Iowa last week. For the past few days, we’ve been reading some pretty scandalous reports of the things that were said. Dean and his ministry has even gone so far as to argue that they didn’t say the things that are being claimed by students and teachers that were present for the assembly.

According to Dunkerton High School teachers and administrators, the group was supposed to present on anti-drug, anti-violence, anti-bullying themes. Instead, they divided the junior and senior high school into boys, girls and teachers and proceeded to present them with images of aborted fetuses, and dying AIDS patients. Those who tried to leave were shouted down and mocked by members of the group. One student claims she was told to “sit down and shut up” by one of the group’s leaders.

The group of course denies many of the accusations, but last night doubled down on their message. They claim that the average lifespan for homosexuals is 42. This comes from a widely-debunked “study” done by Paul Cameron and the anti-gay Family Research Institute in the 1990s. He based his research on reading a few obituaries each day for a few months and not any actual cumulative, statistically representative research, i.e. – he made it up.

Today, we learn that you can run, but you can’t hide from students with video cameras in their phones. Please watch this clip from what was presented to public high school and junior high school students in Iowa. I can’t help but wonder why not a single teacher or administrator didn’t walk up on stage and end this.

(h/t: Good As You)

Michigan Anti-Bullying Law Set to Pass Without Religious Exemption

14 Nov

Sen. Gretchen Whitmer

By now, many of you have seen a video that made the rounds last week. It’s an emotional speech by Senator Gretchen Whitmer following the passage of Michigan’s “Matt’s Safe School Law.” The law is an anti-bullying law named after Matt Epling – a gay teen who committed suicide in 2002 after unbearable anti-gay bullying.

Republicans in the Michigan Senate finally agreed to vote for the bill after a special addition was made by Republican Senator Rick Jones allowing bullying so long as it was based on religious or moral convictions. So as long as kids screamed “The Bible says it’s okay to beat the crap out of you for being gay,” bullying was still cool.

Whitmer’s speech was incredible and brought tears to many eyes. She outlines the fact that the law that was passed, which included these religious and moral protections – if it were passed when Matt was still alive, it would not have saved him. The irony of “Matt’s Law” not being able to stop kids from bullying LGBT kids was apparently not lost on thousands of people who made calls this week to the Michigan Senate.

Late last week, the Michigan House passed the bill without the exemption and Senator Jones has agreed that he will vote for the House version of the bill without his religious and moral exemption. The bill is expected to pass and Michigan will no longer be one of the only 3 states without an anti-bullying law.

 

Houston Chronicle Blogger Blames Parents for Gay Kid’s Suicides

4 Nov

Texas Sparkle a.k.a. Kathleen McKinley

A Houston Chronicle blog titled “Texas Sparkle” and written by Kathleen McKinley states that parents of gay children are the cause when a child commits suicide. Apparently folks should be encouraging their children to continue hiding who they are when in school so as to not tempt potential bullies.

“Am I mad at the hateful mean kids who bully and tease these teens? You bet I am. But I am just as mad at the idiotic adults who force our adult views on kids, and pull them into our adult world long before they are mature enough to handle it. The 13 year old that killed himself told his Mom he was gay. She said she already knew and hugged him. She said she just assumed that everyone else would be as accepting as she was.”

“Why in the world would you give teenagers a REASON to tease you? Oh, yes, because the adults tell you to embrace who you are, the only problem? Kids that age are just discovering who they are. They really have no idea yet.  The adults tell you to “come out,” when what we should be telling them is that sex is for adults, and there is plenty of time for figuring out that later. Figure out yourself first. Focus on the kind of person you want to be, not the kind of person you want to sleep with.”

McKinley parrots the idea that children as young as 13 are too young to understand what being gay means. This of course throws out generations of studies which prove children much younger than that understand who they are attracted to. Additionally, like so many others in the anti-LGBT camp, she seems to enjoy defining LGBT relationships as purely sexual. She goes on to explain what her perfect world would be: (please note that includes no boy-boy or girl-girl relationships, merely pretty boy-ugly girl relationships)

“Listen, in my perfect world, kids would be kind to one another, no matter what differences there are. Handsome guys would ask out not so pretty girls, and see the great people they really are. Cheerleaders would go out with the nerds because they admire their brains. No one would tease anyone else, and everyone would be friends. BUT THAT ISN’T THE REAL WORLD!”

She attacks Gay Straight Alliances being formed in high schools, which has been proven to reduce bullying and help students build important friendships and connections they will hold on to through much of their adult lives.

“The 15 year old who committed suicide had started a “Rainbow Club” at his high school. Was there NO ADULT anywhere that could have said that maybe that isn’t such a good idea? Oh, no. Because that would be politically incorrect. Good grief. The idea of a high school club based on who you want to sleep with is absurd to begin with.”

And finally, she blames LGBT youth suicides on the “It Will Get Better” Campaign…assuming she means the “It Gets Better” Campaign, she’s clearly missed the point.

These kids were sold a bill of goods by people who thought they were being kind. The “It will get better” campaign just didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about the fact that kids are different from adults. They handle things differently. They react differently. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS. You can grumble all day long how unfair it is that straight teens can be straight in high school, and gay kids can’t, but life is unfair. Isn’t the price they are paying too high?? Is it so much to ask them to stand at the door of adulthood before they “come out” publically? Because it may save their life.

Let’s let kids be kids, for God’s sake. Remember the gay young boy’s last message said, “How do you know it will get better?” He was a KID! Kids can’t see  around the corner. They just aren’t mature enough yet. They don’t see it getting better no matter how many times Lady Ga Ga says it will. So, enough with our politically correct campaigns aimed at kids.

It’s killing them.

I cannot help but wonder how old “Texas Sparkle” was when she lost her virginity or first realized she had a crush on a boy? I wonder how she’d feel if someone told her that it was wrong to like boys and that she had to hide the fact that she was attracted to them? Would it be the person telling her to suppress her feelings that caused her grief or would she blame the person who told her she should be able to express herself the way she wanted to and love the kind of person she felt attracted to? I’m shocked she went so far as to say her perfect world included nerd-cheerleader and hunk-ugly girl relationships – it’s not what she seems to be advocating in the rest of her article.

If you read through the comments section, you’ll notice she responds to nearly everything and contradicts herself frequently – at times saying she isn’t encouraging kids to stay in the closet, but then saying it’s okay to avoid the bullying. She’s also posted an update after Gawker posted her piece. She defends her bigotry further by saying she has stood up for GOProud (a Conservative gay group that has proven itself to be hateful towards lesbians and trans people). If not for the grammatical errors that only a Tea Partier could respect, one might be concerned that this is a person who has anyone reading what she writes.

TN Principal Assaults Student for Wearing Pro-Gay T-Shirt

4 Oct

Sequoyah HS principal Maurice Moser assaulted student for wearing pro-gay t-shirt

A few weeks ago, we brought you the story of Sequoya High School in Tennessee, where senior Nathan Carroll was attempting to start a Gay Straight Alliance.

After starting a petition in the school for the GSA, Nathan was threatened with suspension should he continue to pursue that course of action. I followed up by speaking with Principal Maurice Moser, who informed me that the only reason the GSA was not possible was due to the fact they couldn’t find a faculty sponsor. Moser went on to accidentally inform me that he’d assisted other clubs with finding one, and when I pressed him to find out why he wasn’t helping these students, he became very flustered and combative.

Today, the ACLU is reporting that Principal Moser has assaulted one of his students for wearing a t-shirt promoting the Gay Straight Alliance. 17-year old senior Chris Sigler was reportedly shoved, bumped in the chest and verbally harassed by Moser for wearing the t-shirt that said “GSA: We’ve got your back.”

“It is totally unacceptable that a young man who was peacefully exercising his First Amendment rights would have his speech shut down by the public school principal,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee. “Last week’s incident clearly illustrates the hostile environment LGBT students face at Sequoyah High School. Given this context, it’s especially important that supportive voices like Sigler’s can be heard in order to overcome the school’s resistance to a GSA.”

According to the ACLU press release, a teacher ordered Sigler to cover up the shirt in the future after he wore it Tuesday. Sigler, knowing he had a right to wear the shirt, wore it again Friday, and resisted an order to remove the shirt. Sigler says that Moser then ordered all students out of the classroom, except for Sigler’s sister Jessica, who refused to leave. According to both students, Moser then grabbed Sigler’s arm, shoved him, and chest-bumped him repeatedly while asking “Who’s the big man now?” Sigler’s mother reported that when she arrived at the school, she saw her son seated in a desk with Moser leaning over him and shouting in Sigler’s face. The Siglers filed a report about the incident that afternoon with the Madisonville Police Department.

“All I want is to have a GSA at my school to help stop the bullying against gays and lesbians and their friends who support them,” Sigler said. “The shirt was a way to use my voice and show my support for the club. The way I was treated shows even more why we need a GSA here.”

“All students deserve a safe and respectful learning environment. Harassment, abuse or censorship of any student – regardless of sexual orientation – is absolutely reprehensible as well as illegal,” said Amanda Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “We expect the police to investigate this quickly and fairly, and take statements from all witnesses who were present.”

The ACLU has sent a demand letter to the school district can be viewed here.

Though the ACLU can only really protect these students’ constitutional rights, this physical and verbal intimidation from the principal of the school must be met with stronger action and a call for the principal’s resignation. If the story is true, Moser should be arrested and charged with assault as a hate crime. If this is the example being set for students in a time when bullying has become fatal, this is a man who should not be in charge of a school.

Sources say that the anti-gay hatred in Monroe County runs deep. One source claimed that churches in the area were telling parishioners to fight the GSA as hard as they can. Another source indicated that religious corruption has dictated governmental affairs there for a long time.

The Tennessee Equality Project has created a Change.org petition demanding a full and fair investigation into the assault. It seems when the Monroe County Sheriff questioned individuals involved in the incident, he left out the only non-participatory witness, Chris’ sister. The petition states:

“The Sigler family filed report about the assault which is being investigated by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department. Deputies interviewed Chris Sigler, his teacher and Principal Mosby, but did not question Jessica Sigler who witnessed the entire incident. Given the level of intimidation and hostility that GSA-supportive students have experienced in recent weeks, TEP believes that the Sheriff is not fully and fairly investigating the assault of Chris Sigler by his Principal by leaving a key witness out of the investigation.”

Please sign the petition to demand a fair investigation into Chris’ assault.

Please check out our investigation and update to this story here.

Texas Teacher Harassed by “Christian” Student Claiming 1st Amendment Rights

28 Sep

Dakota Ary

Some of you may have heard about Dakota Ary, the Fort Worth high school student who claims he was suspended for expressing his religious beliefs. Ary claimed that his German teacher broached the topic of homosexuality and Christianity when Ary stated “I am a Christian and I believe that homosexuality is wrong.” Ary was then sent from the classroom and suspended for 3 days.

Up until today, the teacher in question had not been allowed to speak about the incident, but via the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S., a rather different story is being told. According to teacher Kristopher Franks, a group of four students, (of which Ary is one) has been harassing him based on their suspicion that he is gay. Franks’ version of the story follows:

On the particular day in which this incident occurred, Mr. Franks was opening class when the topic of Christianity in Germany was broached by one student, who asked what churches were there, another whether they read the Bible in English, etc. Franks asserts that the topic of homosexuality was not broached in any way, and that Ary‘s assertions to the contrary are entirely false. At this point, Ary declared, with a class audience, “Gays can’t be Christians; homosexuality is wrong,” looking directly at Mr. Franks. Franks says he understands and affirms students’ right to free speech, and that he is perfectly prepared to lead a respectful discussion on topics such as gay rights that allows for the assertion of opinions with which he disagrees. He has led such discussion in the past in his sociology classes. But in this case, hr feels the context makes it clear that this remark was made ad hominem, aimed specifically at him to devalue him and any information he might share on the topic of religion, on the basis of his perceived sexual orientation.

LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. goes on to request assistance in making sure Franks’ side of the story is heard fully. The contact info will be at the end of this post. One can’t help but consider the case of another student who took it upon himself to spread his beliefs about homosexuality while still young, impressionable and naive. We’ve written about Ryan Miner here before and his crusade to keep a Gay Straight Alliance group from forming on his former college campus. Miner  said some rather vile things in the press and like former Senator Rick Santorum, he now finds himself with a Google problem.

When Miner has applied for jobs, he’s admittedly found a great deal of difficulty in getting hired due to his previous bigoted statements. In this day and age, let’s face it – unless you’re working at the National Organization for Marriage, you will have to work with some LGBT people – and who wants to hire someone who is a known bigot and will likely cause friction among their coworkers? Miner has recently issued an apology for the things he said, though in an effort to discover Miner’s earnestness, we requested he do more (i.e. volunteer for an LGBT charity, donate to LGBT causes, etc). Our requests for Miner to back-up his new found “respect” for the LGBT community have gone unanswered.

Please read the rest of the post from LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S and help in any way you can.

It would be very helpful, and a grace rendered to the threatened teacher, Mr. Franks, if you and other community members would write letters and/or email messages to the school board members, assistant superintendent, and Western Hills High School principal, calling on them to give a respectful, caring, and full hearing to Mr. Franks’ side of the story. Time is of the essence: He is being interrogated by an external investigations group today, though no specific allegations have yet been made against him by the ISD. I will post their names, phone numbers and email addresses below. Please keep all messages respectful and restrained, calling simply for a fair, respectful and caring hearing of Mr. Franks’ side of the story, unswayed by the public outcry generated by the slanted media coverage. Do not go into the speculations or reports of his side of the case; that is for him to present.

Walter Dansby
Interim Superintendent
Fort Worth ISD
Email: walter.dansby@fwisd.org
Phone: 817.871.2000

James Wellman
Principal
Western Hills High School
Fort Worth ISD
Email: james.wellman@fwisd.org
Phone: 817.815.6000

Ray Dickerson
President
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: ray.Dickerson@fwisd.org

Carlos Vasquez
Board Member, District 1
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: carlos.vasquez@fwisd.org

Norman Robbins
Board Member, District 7
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: norman.robbins@fwisd.org