Tag Archives: Education

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

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!

Bigoted Teacher Returns to Classroom, Would You Want Him Teaching Your Kids?

25 Aug

Bigoted Teacher Jerry Buell

There’s been a lot of discussion about a Florida teacher who took to his Facebook page to say that he “almost threw up” upon seeing a news story about marriage equality coming to New York.

He was initially suspended for the comment, but Superintendent Susan Moxley reinstated him today.

In school districts across the country, teachers are not permitted to use social media inappropriately, as anything that might be said will undoubtedly reflect upon the school district. In fact, there are stories all over about teachers losing their jobs over Facebook and Twitter comments they’ve made. What’s different about Buell’s story however, is there is a small army of very vocal, very homophobic people who are jumping to his defense claiming the school infringed upon Buell’s “First Amendment rights.”

Strangely enough, these defenders of free speech were not there to stand up for Massachusetts teacher, Dr. June Talvitie-Siple when she took to her Facebook page to say that the residents of the town she taught in were “arrogant and snobby.” She lost her job.

Or another Massachusetts teacher, Jon O’Keefe – who was fired for simply accepting students as “friends” on Facebook.

Or Iowa Catholic school teacher, Abby Nurre who lost her job over saying she didn’t believe in God on Facebook.

Ashley Payne was fired for having this photo on her Facebook page

And then there was the Georgia Public School teacher, Ashley Payne who, after a European vacation including some drinking, was fired for having a picture of herself on Facebook holding a glass of wine.

It’s really troublesome to fight for free speech for some and not all.

Queerty happened to archive a website they found regarding the experience of a gay student in Jerry Buell’s classroom. Unfortunately, the blogger has pulled the post from his site, but this account of a gay student’s experience in his classroom is certainly jarring. The original post appeared on AntiGayBigotryScaresMe.blogspot.com

The clearest and most specific example I can provide of Jerry Buell’s anti-gay remarks in the classroom happened my 11th grade year (2001-2002) during his American History course. Before explaining this occurrence, I would like to first comment on Mr. Buell’s classroom. Among several things hung around the room, Bible verses were spread across the walls, accented by a picture of Jesus Christ above the clock. While there may have been some additional quotes from other scholars and philosophers, the signs were predominantly Christian. And while, yes, Buell’s number one rule was/is Respect, I personally fail to find how those signs are equally respectful to other religions in a public school classroom or how his statement respects human life.

… a student provocatively asked Mr. Buell what he thoughts about gays in the military. I tensed, knowing full well the point of view to follow in Mr. Buell’s response.

I looked up when he said he supported gays in the military, stunned by the answer. He immediately followed that comment with the statement that we should then put them on the front lines, and pull back. Disgusted at the thought of violence and murder of humans being vocally supported, I shut my book and walked out of class, the only time I would ever do this during my educational career.

I returned at the closing bell to raise the issue with Mr. Buell. He noted my actions could be grounds for discipline, to which I countered by noting that his comments, if reported, would be the same. I also pointed out that the man in the picture hanging above the clock never advocated murdering another human being.

I didn’t report him then, and am sharing this story now to simply provide an example of Buell’s personal opinions infiltrating his classroom and teaching. His statements in recent media stories that he values students equally and loves his gay students I personally believe are inaccurate given my experiences as a student and alumni of his classrooms.

It should also be noted that Buell’s classroom syllabus states:

 “I teach God’s truth, I make very few compromises. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, ’cause I ain’t changing!”

If teachers can get fired for holding a glass of wine in a Facbook picture, calling the parents of their students “snobby,” saying they don’t believe in God or even adding students as “friends,” then how is a man who refuses to separate church and state and wish death upon his LGBT students – still teaching.

Wouldn’t it be great if GLSEN, The Trevor Project, HRC and the It Gets Better Project and all the other organizations fighting for our rights made a specific campaign to educate and empower the parents and students of this school?

I believe in the freedom of speech for all, however I also believe that those who use it to hate and oppress others should be held responsible for the things they say. And if the things they say are harmful to the people they are charged with educating in a public school, they should not be entitled to that job.

VICTORY! CA Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Gay History Bill

14 Jul

CA Gov. Jerry Brown

While Californians continue to fight for marriage equality through the courts, they will now be making history by sharing ours.

Today, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 48 into law. The new law, the Fair Education Act will allow teachers to educate on LGBT issues and historical figures. Combatting the bigoted “Don’t Say Gay” law recently passed in Tennessee – which stops educators from discussing anything about LGBT people, SB 48 is now the law in the home of some of the country’s largest textbook distributors.

Brown signed the law after a huge campaign from the National Organization for Marriage to persuade him not to. Some of the lies spread regarding the law claim that kindergartners would be “indoctrinated into homosexuality” and sexualizing children.

Randy Thomasson, President of SaveCalifornia.com refers to the act as “sexual brainwashing.” In an interview on Alan Colmes radio show, CA State Sen. Mark Leno (the author of the bill) argued with Thomasson with regards to the facts of the bill. Thomasson doesn’t believe the history of Harvey Milk should be taught because of his sexual history. Leno Responds with the point that students aren’t taught about John F. Kennedy’s or Martin Luther King Jr.’s sexual history when being taught about them. Leno also pointed out the focus and obsession on sexuality when it comes to those who oppose equality measures like this one. Watch below:

It May Soon Be Illegal to Say ‘Gay’ in TN Schools

23 Feb

It would seem Tennessee is trying to pass a bill which would dictate that elementary and middle school students would be denied any discussion of sexuality (outside of heterosexuality). And many people would argue that sexuality isn’t something that is on the radar of a young kid either way. But that’s simply not true.

A few years ago, I came across this incredible video by Brian McNaught. Brian has been nicknamed the “Godfather of gay sensitivity training” and has been at this for quite some time. He debated homophobe hero, Anita Bryant and has spent his life educating people on what it is like to be gay. And the video at the end of this article hit home with me.

Brian talks a crowd of predominantly heterosexual men and women through what it would be like to live in a world that was the opposite of their sexual orientation. He asks them to close their eyes and imagine a world where they felt one way and everything in society told them there was something wrong with them. And it made me recall my own childhood and all those nervous moments I had – from first recognizing my crush on He-Man to the first time I snuck into the Glad Day Gay Bookstore in Boston – frantically looking over my shoulder the whole time. It made me remember quietly sneaking into the video store across the street from my house and renting every video I could find that might possibly have a gay theme – hiding them under my jacket when I covertly walked in the house. And it made me remember my first kiss – feeling frightened and ashamed as opposed to having that raised leg fireworks moment I should have had.

All the fear and shame started at an early age. When my kindergarten teacher could have read King & King alongside Cinderella, that was the first moment when I could have been told there was nothing wrong with me. I know we are sometimes reluctant to fight for early childhood education when it comes to introducing sexuality, but what we don’t often acknowledge is that love is an idea which we start learning about from the moment we open our eyes. While the details of what part goes where is a discussion that should come a little later in life, the notion of couples and families of all different shapes and sizes should and must be introduced as soon as it can be. This is the only way we can prevent that shame which envelops the early life of so many LGBT individuals.

This bill in Tennessee and all those like it, must be fought – as hard and steadfastly as we are fighting for marriage equality and employment non-discrimination. It is vital that our children are being raised in a fashion where they are not afraid of who they are, where they don’t need to look over their shoulder simply because of who they are attracted to. It’s a silly notion and as a people, we should be beyond it.

Please take a look at the video below and please share it with everyone you know, gay or straight and encourage them to share it with others who may not understand what it’s like to grow up gay or lesbian in this country. And when you’re done, make a contribution to the Tennessee Equality Project to help them fight this bill. And in the meantime, go buy a copy of King and King or And Tango Makes Three and send it to your elementary school library and make sure your school knows who it came from.

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