Tag Archives: High School

Tennessee HS Student Threatened With Suspension for Attempting to Start GSA

9 Sep

Nathan Carroll

Tennessee High School Senior Nathan Carroll has been bullied most of his life for being gay. The openly-gay teen attends Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, TN and decided a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) is needed at his school.

Nathan started a petition at his school to get support to start a GSA while kids opposing it started a similar petition. Despite Nathan’s efforts and the nearly 150 teens who’ve signed the petition, when he brought it to Principal Maurice Moser, he was threatened with suspension should he proceed in trying to form the GSA. Additionally, the Principal said that any students found with one of Nathan’s petitions would have the petition torn up and thrown away and that they be sent immediately to his office for further punishment.

Of course students are legally allowed to start the club should they find an adviser, which according to WATE Channel 6 News in Tennessee, is close to happening.

We put in a call today to Principal Moser and are awaiting a response as to why he would threaten to suspend students wanting to start this club.

UPDATE: Please see our follow up Exclusive: Tennessee High School Principal Responds

The school already hosts a student club called Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). According to the FCA Website:

“Since 1954, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ.”

No clubs recognizing any other faith or denomination can be found on the school’s website.

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!

Miami-Dade Schools Increase Protections for LGBT Students, Staff

21 Jul

Save Dade's CJ Ortuno (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

According to a press release from Talk About Equality friend, CJ Ortuno at SaveDade.org, Miami-Dade Schools have just announced increased protections for LGBT students. Three years after having passed the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act,  which prohibits the bullying or harassment, including cyber bullying, of any public K-12 student or employee, Miami-Dade County Administration amended their policy to be explicitly inclusive of students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT). The policy will now include “sexual orientation and gender identity” providing clearer protections for LGBT students.

“For the past year we’ve focused on strengthening Miami-Dade’s anti-bullying policy as a way to create a climate where bullying a student because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity is no longer tolerated,” said C.J. Ortuno, executive director of SAVE Dade. SAVE Dade worked with their partner the ACLU of Florida in developing the policy’s new language.

According to GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey 7,261 middle and high school students found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (84.6%) experienced harassment at school in the previous year. Miami-Dade County provides significant support through public school programs and nonprofit organizations for LGBT students.

“SAVE Dade’s contribution is to strengthen policies in hope that it provides some clarity for adults and students on the frontlines of bulling – if a teacher knows and understands that gay students are explicitly protected from bullying, it could result in a report that saves a young person’s life,” said Ortuno.

The new policy updates will go into effect Friday, July 22, 2011. An English version will be posted on the school board’s website at that time, with Spanish and Creole versions to follow.

The new policy language will read:

“Bullying, Harassment, Cyberbullying, and Discrimination (as referred to and defined herein) encompasses, but is not limited to, unwanted harm towards a student or employee based on or with regard to actual or perceived: sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability (physical, mental, or educational), marital status, socio-economic background, ancestry, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, linguistic preference, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or social/family background. This policy prohibits bullying or harassment of any student by any Board member, District employee, consultant, contractor, agent, visitor, volunteer, student, or other person in the school or outside of the school at school-sponsored events, on school buses, and at training facilities or training programs sponsored by the District.”

 

Openly Gay Maine Couple Crowned Prom King & Queen

30 May

A beautiful story out of southern Maine (one of only two New England States not recognizing marriage equality). 17 year-old Christian Nelsen was just crowned Sanford High School’s Prom Queen.

Christian and his boyfriend, Caleb Jett decided to put their names in the running as Prom King and Queen to change minds across their community and in their state. With the help of his friends, Christian got enough votes to win Prom Queen. Happily, his boyfriend Caleb won King. The two wore suits and proudly showed off their tiara and crown and shared a King and Queen dance.

Here’s an interesting point. This interview from WNTW News 8 mentions that while some were very happy for the results of the election, others were very unhappy. News 8 tried to interview dozens of people and those who were against it declined to comment on camera – one even said he was afraid of offending someone. How wonderful is it when those who are on the wrong side of history and humanity can acknowledge their ignorance and bigotry through their silence.

Many Congrats to Christian and Caleb and many thanks to them and their friends for doing something so courageous. Please know that your work now will make all the difference in the world to LGBT kids for generations to come.

Growing Up GLBTQ: Now There’s a Guide!

30 Mar

When I was just considering coming out, I was 18 years old. I lived with my mom on the bottom floor of a house next door to a church. Across the street was a little plaza which contained a video store. When I was home on breaks from college, I would wander through the tiny video store reading the back of every VHS tape and searching for the word “gay.” I’d tuck the bulky tapes under my coat and sneak them into my house and spend afternoons watching them while my mother was at work.

It was then I learned that others like me existed. From the beautiful Merchant Ivory film, Maurice to the campy Jeffrey, I was discovering who I was through film. It was the perfect anonymous way to do a little research. Movies like this are what made me realize that there was a community for me. As I became more confident, my friend Michael Hammond became my fairy godmother in a way. He would take me to Boston or Cambridge and we’d go see gay movies in the art houses there – we tried to catch Johns with David Arquette, but it was unfortunately sold out that evening. “Johns is sold out” then became code when Michael wanted to point out to me another person who was gay. I was beginning to discover my community.

I often think about what would have happened had I started that research when I was still in high school, but there was very little available to me that would answer the questions I had. Things have changed.


Free Spirit Publishing has published the second edition of GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Teens. This is a book I would have stolen from my library. Written by Kelly Huegel, GLBTQ is a book that NEEDS to be in every junior high and high school library. The book is thorough and could help empower so many young people who are going through their adolescence full of fear.

The book covers so many different topics, opening with the basics of figuring out who you are and moving through how to deal with homophobia, strategies for coming out – specifically figuring out if it is safe to do so and how to tell your family if it is, finding community, dating, sexual and emotional health, religion and even features some in-depth discussion for transgender teens.

The author not only offers intelligent commentary and advice for teens, but she features real-life examples. Throughout the book, you’ll find segments titled “BEEN THERE,” which feature teens’ stories of how they have dealt with the challenges mentioned in each chapter. These real-life examples help illustrate the real-life challenges kids face, and how they deal with them.

The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has a wonderful program which sends “Safe Space Kits” to schools around the country. For only $20, you can send a kit to your high school to help educate that school’s staff and administration on how to make the school safe for LGBT students. It’s a wonderful campaign, and I can tell you that the two high schools and three junior high schools I attended have all received one. I would like to recommend to GLSEN that they find a way to include this book in their kits. And if that is not cost-effective, I would like to call on anyone who reads this, to send a copy of this book to your own school library.

GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Teens is available at Amazon for $10.87!  Please, take a moment and do an ounce of research. Find out who at your high school or junior high should receive this to make it a part of the school’s library collection and send a copy. Make sure that the kids who are growing up now have a resource. And more importantly than that – help those kids understand that there is a community for them, they have friends and people who love them unconditionally.

Being a teenager is rough. Being an LGBTQ teenager can be hell. We know this. Help make it easier and send this book back to your school.

Oak For Court!

16 Feb

In September we wrote about Oak Reed, a Michigan teenager who was elected homecoming King at Mona Shores High only to have his candidacy invalidated on a technicality. The problem, for the administration, is that Oakleigh Marshall Reed used to be named Oakleigh Marie Reed.  So, despite the common belief that Oak earned the most votes, the school records still indicate that Oak is a girl. So no homecoming court for Oak.

Oak Reed for Homecoming King!After garnering national attention and outrage the same administration has made the laudable decision to remove King and Queen from its homecoming court in favor of gender neutral titles.  Thanks to broad support from Oak’s parents, friends, and fellow students an important step towards inclusivity has been taken.

According to the Muskegon Chronicle, the school administration quickly began examining how they could be more gender neutral and met with student leaders to make some changes. Oak responded through a statement released by the ACLU:

I’m so glad that the rules have been changed. All I wanted was a chance for all students to participate and be heard. Now my classmates and I can just focus on having a great time at our school dance.

Indeed. By simply being himself Oak has succeeded in making real changes in his community. Now they can dance , focus on being young, and get through high school, which is hard enough as it is.

Hopefully we’ll get to see the happy prom photos.

Gay Providence Teen Sues to Bring Boyfriend to Prom

24 Jan

On this day in 1962, seven whole years before the Stonewall Uprising, in Providence, RI, Aaron Fricke was born.

Aaron & Paul attend prom

You may not know his name, but at the age of 17, Aaron asked his boyfriend Paul Guilbert to go to prom with him. Paul said yes and what happened next would go down in history as the first time someone sued to take someone of the same sex to their prom.

As would be expected, his high school refused to let Aaron bring Paul to prom. So Aaron filed suit in US District Court. For his actions, Aaron was bullied and beaten. He needed five stitches in his face and the kid who did it was suspended from school for nine days.

The presiding judge, Raymond J. Pettine ruled in Aaron’s favor, ordering the school to not only allow him and his partner to attend as a couple but also to provide enough security to ensure their safety.

That magical night is described in a 1983 essay by Aaron:

The crowd receded.  As I laid my head on Paul’s shoulder, I saw a few students start to stare at us.  I closed my eyes and listened to the music [Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got the Night”], my thoughts wandering over the events of the evening.  When the song ended, I opened my eyes.  A large crowd of students had formed a ring around us.  Probably most of them had never seen two happy men embracing in a slow dance.  For a moment I was uncomfortable.

Then I heard the sound that I knew so well as a B-52s fan.  One of my favorite songs was coming up: “Rock Lobster.”

Paul and I began dancing free-style.  Everyone else was still staring at us, but by the end of the first stanza, several couples had also begun dancing.  The song had a contagious enthusiasm to it, and with each bar, more dancers came onto the floor.

I doubt that any two people were dancing with the same movements: the dancing was an expression of our individuality, and no one felt bad about being different.  Everyone was free to be themselves.

I could see that everyone felt a sense of disorientation.  For six minutes and forty-nine seconds, the students on the dance floor had forgotten about their defenses, forgotten about their shells.  We just had fun.

This case set a precedent for other similar cases around the country and opened doors for other LGBT teens to enjoy their proms the way they should. It of course doesn’t mean that that every high school prom is free and clear of problems like Aaron & Paul had, but we’re grateful that the door was kicked open that fateful day in Providence, RI. The difficult thing to see is that the headline of this article could easily still be printed today, 31 years later.

Aaron went on to write a beautiful coming out novel, Reflections of a Rock Lobster: a Story About Growing Up Gay, and another book with his father Walter, Sudden Strangers: the Story of a Gay Son and his Father.

Happy Birthday Aaron!