Tag Archives: Change.org

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.

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Playboy Club’s Benanti, Easy A’s Royal and Emmy Winner Gold Show Support for Mt. Dora “It Gets Better” Petition

6 Sep

Florida’s Mount Dora High School has been getting a lot of extra attention in the past few weeks. Last month. One of their teachers, Jerry Buell took to his Facebook page after seeing a news story about marriage equality in New York. His status update said that he “nearly threw up” upon hearing about the state’s decision to allow gays and lesbians to marry.

Buell was immediately suspended and then upon threat of a lawsuit, he was reinstated by the school district citing first amendment rights. Since then, students have come forward to describe the atmosphere in his classroom, which was less-than welcoming for LGBT and students.

The Playboy Club's Laura Benanti (photo by John Russo/NBC)

In the interest of letting LGBT students at Mt. Dora H.S. know they are supported in their academic environment, a Change.org petition was started to request Mr. Buell’s colleagues to put together an “It Gets Better” video.

Since the petition was launched late last week, it has garnered some exciting and well-known support. Tony Award Winner Laura Benanti, star of the upcoming NBC series, The Playboy Club tweeted the petition out to her followers. Emmy Winner Judy Gold, Broadway’s Ann Harada and Seth Rudetsky are among the signers as well as Tammy Aaberg  the mother of 15 year-old Justin Aaberg, who took his own life after years of anti-gay bullying. Other supporters include at least two of Mr. Buell’s colleagues at Mount Dora High School.

Another petitioner of note is Bert V. Royal. Royal was the screenwriter of last year’s hit comedy, Easy A. He commented on the petition:

 I am a 33 year old gay man from Florida. I wrote the movie ‘Easy A’ which came out last year and lightly addressed how schools turns a blind eye toward gay bashing. Which is why I never made it to my senior year. (Or even my sophomore year.)

Now, I live happily in Los Angeles with my partner, my child and three dogs.

Trust me. It does get better.

(Remember kids: one day, you’ll be able to talk about it. Maybe even write a movie about it.)

The petition can be found at: http://www.change.org/petitions/mt-dora-hs-show-lgbt-students-it-gets-better.

Please check out Laura Benanti’s “It Gets Better” video!

SIGN THE PETITION! Show Students of Bigoted Teacher ‘It Gets Better’

1 Sep

Jerry Buell

Many of you have heard by know about Jerry Buell. Jerry is the teacher in Florida who took to his facebook and stated that he “almost threw up” when hearing about the marriage equality law passing in New York State. Immediately following the press picking up on the story, Jerry was suspended. Shortly thereafter, following threatened lawsuits based on Jerry’s first amendment rights, he was reinstated and started teaching this week.

Since being reinstated, other information has been pouring out about Buell. An interview with a former student on the New Civil Rights Movement exposed that Buell expressed his feelings about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to his class with a joke that implied gay and lesbian service members should be killed. Around his classroom on the walls were quotes from the Bible and a picture of Jesus hung above the clock. Buell insists he is welcoming of all students, but I’m not sure how his behavior in the classroom can possibly make students who are LGBT or non-Christian comfortable in their learning environment.

All the news stories have focused on Buell and his first amendment rights. We have seen very little focus on the students who are affected by the things Buell says and does. So after speaking to faculty members at the school as well as Equality Florida and the It Gets Better Project, we have decided to launch a Change.org petition.

The It Gets Better Project

The petition is requesting an “It Gets Better” video be made by staff, faculty and alumni of Mount Dora High School, to let LGBT students know they have support in their learning environment. We have been told that this would not be possible as the county has a policy that states the school cannot align itself with any organizations. It has been communicated to the Principal of the high school that the making of an “It Gets Better” video would in no way align the school with any organization. We’ve let her know that thousands have made a video including President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton and we of course would not expect them to utilize school time or resources to make this video.

Mount Dora High School

Unfortunately after several attempts, we have not heard back from the Principal of Mount Dora High School, but we understand things have been rather hectic with the start of the school year in addition to loads of media attention.

We hope through this petition, we will encourage educators and former students to stand up and state their support for students who most need it right now. We hope that a story of hope and acceptance could come out of the same place we are currently hearing nothing but bigotry from. With this petition, we hope to focus again on the students and their need for a safe place to learn. At the end of the day, isn’t that why educators are there?

Please sign and share the petition and let’s communicate to these students that it does in fact, get better.

SIGN AND SHARE THE PETITION!

Bert & Ernie Petitions Bring Out the Haters

11 Aug

So there’s a really interesting/ridiculous discussion going on regarding a Change.org petition that was created last week to out the ambiguously gay duo, Bert & Ernie. There is another petition saying they should get married (as Sesame Street is clearly located in New York, and since the puppets from Avenue Q tied the knot, it seems to make sense).

There have been many discussions about whether or not Bert & Ernie are gay. While they adorn the t-shirts of many walking through Chelsea and the West Village, do we have any real evidence? Well last year, regarding the A-Team movie that was released, Bert tweeted:

“Ever notice how similar my hair is to Mr. T’s? The only difference is mine is a little more ‘mo,’ a little less ‘hawk.'”

Most assumed this was Bert’s coming out tweet, as “mo” was clearly short for “homo.” No other explanations have been offered. We’re not so sure about Ernie, but they’ve lived together 32 years, so…I think it’s safe to assume.

However the real interesting part came today. Now that the story of these petitions is getting out, it seems it’s ruffling a few feathers. People who are against the famous Muppets coming out of the closet have taken to Change.org to create petitions against the felt nuptials. What’s striking me though, is the anti-gay language that is being used in these new petitions’ comment sections.

Petition Signer Sharon Howell says:

“Im so sick of gay people pushing they’re life style on everyone else, first they wanted acceptance and gay rights, okay they got that, then they wanted gay marraige okay they got that which is ridiculous, and they’re still not satisfied. Is’nt sesame street a children’s show? can’t we leave something pure and untouched for the children for god sake they’re exposed to so much already, I have nothing against gays, but sometimes you guys just go way too far, if you want to push for gay marraige and rights that’s your thing, but leave the children alone please. I really hope the shows creators DO NOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN, children should continue learning AB’CS and 123’s not about adam and steve god created man and woman to marry!!!”

Firstly, maybe Sesame Street should be teaching a little more about use of apostrophes and commas. Secondly, I’m still trying to figure out when we got gay rights and gay marriage. Last I heard, the government was ripping apart a married gay couple because one spouse isn’t a US citizen. Thirdly, in case you missed it – everything she says should be taken with a grain of salt because she “has nothing against gays.” I just love how that little sentence absolves people of being a bigot.

Rachelle Rose says:

UNBELEIVABLE! i have nothing against gays.. i have many friends and bestfriends who are. but my ONE YEAR OLD does not need to be watchin shit like that!, shes to young to even know about any of that!…if they do that i will not put that on for my kid

Again with the “i have nothing against gays.” She has lots of friends and bestfriends who are gay but apparently behind their backs refer to their relationships as “shit.” fun.

Latabitha King says:

“Kids are too young to try to process this type of information PERIOD.”

And here…in this one simple sentence, we have the reason we have lost referendums in 31 states for marriage equality. I just spent a week with hundreds of LGBT families and hundreds of their children. Do you think these children look at their parents and think “I wonder what my moms having sex is like?” I watched Sesame Street as a kid and I knew that Gordon and Susan were married. Did I ONCE consider what was happening in their bedroom? Nope. If there was a gay couple on Sesame Street, who just happened to live in the same apartment and hold hands and sing songs together, will kids automatically start thinking about gay and lesbian sexual relations? I doubt it.

While at first I thought the Ernie and Bert getting married petition was fairly silly, I’m now in support of it. I think the better scenario would be for a human couple to be introduced on the show that happened to be gay, but I’ll take what I can get. Bert & Ernie, I hope to one day be “doin’ the Pigeon” at your reception.

NY Gov Cuomo Kicking LGBT Homeless Youth to the Curb

29 Mar

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

It seems that New York City’s LGBT homeless youth are under attack again. The most vulnerable of our community are facing further budget cuts – this time from the Governor’s office.

Just in time for Christmas last year, Mayor Bloomberg announced major budget cuts, including most of the budget of the Ali Forney Center. Ali Forney caters specifically to LGBT homeless kids, providing enough beds for just a fraction of the kids out there who need them. At the last minute, City Speaker Christine Quinn and others on the City Council saved the day and restored the funds.

Now, as part of the Governor’s budget cuts, he is planning on sending thousands of homeless youth back to the streets. This includes LGBT kids who are at drastically higher rates of risk when it comes to drug use, STD infections including HIV, depression, violence and suicide.

Change.org has issued a petition to Governor Andrew Cuomo to send him a message that these kids need our protection and care. They do not deserve to be kicked to the curb so that we can give larger breaks to millionaires. Please sign the petition and send the message to Governor Cuomo that our kids are our first priority.