If you wore purple for a day… perhaps this could be your next step

UPDATE

The report following Monday’s school board meeting was very positive.
Beaverton School Board passes nondiscrimination resolution
Here are a few highlights…

During an emotional school board meeting Monday night, parents and school board members talked about the need to change, and the board took the first official step by unanimously approving a resolution of nondiscrimination.
…..
A couple of board members choked up as they talked about their concerns and the need for change. Over the past month, they have received letters and e-mails with stories of bullying, harassment and discrimination involving sexual minorities in the district.

The district and the state already had non-discrimination policies in place to prevent just this sort of unfair treatment.  Just like every school in the state of Oregon is already required to have bullying and harassment policies in place which address specific forms of bias including gender identity and sexual orientation.

The gap between discrimination, bias, and harassment laws, policies and practice is filled with invisible people left on their own to fend off daily assaults and group attacks. I am quite sure the “letters and e-mails with stories of bullying, harassment and discrimination” were eye-opening to the school board.  I somehow suspect they were surprised and even scandalized by the kinds of things people do to someone who has been marked as a social target.   Good.  A policy or resolution is only worth the effort if it is applied and practices change.  Lets hope this decision empowers a cultural change in the community.

ORIGINAL POST

A second Make it Better post.

 News broke yesterday that the gay student teacher who was removed from his placement for identifying as gay is going to be reinstated in his classroom. The decision to reinstate Seth will be discussed at a Beaverton School Board meeting this coming Monday. This morning I am left wondering who from ‘the public’ will be present at that meeting.

In an earlier post I talked about Seth and the impact of his removal.  I noted the lack of positive role models for LGBTQ youth and the biased leadership of the teacher training programs at WOU and PSU.  I suspect neither of those programs would have advocated for Seth’s return to his classroom since both program heads see LGBTQ people as second class folks who should know when to keep their mouths shut.  Pretty much the same position the Beaverton district originally took.

Lewis and Clark College on the other hand stood by Seth, as did Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), and the two groups worked to advocate for his return to his original placement.  And for Seth this fight has been about returning to that placement from day one.   He took a reassignment while he sought redress for the blatant discrimination on the part of the Beaverton School district.  But he, his attorney, and BRO always saw a return to his classroom as the ultimate solution.

If you are just learning about this here’s the recap:

Parents complained about a conversation where a student asked if Stambaugh was married.

 The student teacher said no. Then the student asked if it was because he wasn’t old enough and Stambaugh said no, it was because he would want to marry a man and that’s illegal.

And here was the  Beaverton leaderships response:

“We may be all asked different questions that might be more of a personal nature and we need to redirect and make sure we’re staying on the task of teaching and learning,” said Maureen Wheeler, Beaverton School District spokeswoman.

Seth answered a very public question, are you married.  He gave a brief and truthful response to why he is not married.  Something heterosexual people do perpetually without thinking about the ‘personal nature’ of questions about their family.  But for Seth answering this question was deemed inappropriate and he was thus effectively fired.

And while Oregon has a relatively new law against firing people for their sexual orientation, it turns out interns and student teachers are not protected by this law.   So the district wiped their hands and said we didn’t break any laws here.  Meanwhile the many LGBTQ faculty members, parents, and students were sent the clear message… there is nothing you could say about yourself that would be appropriate in our schools. 

A message later backed by the PSU and WOU teacher training programs.  But Seth, BRO and Lewis and Clark didn’t back down and following a series of forums and discussions there is now a plan to reinstate him at his original placement in Beaverton.

But wait there’s just a little more to think about here.  Beaverton Superintendent Jerry Colonna will discuss the decision to reinstate Seth Stambaugh at the next Beaverton School Board meeting this Monday (10/25/10).  And there is a very good possibility that a slew of empowered homophobes will be at that meeting given the open nature with which people feel empowered to engage in this form of open bias, hate, and discrimination. 

And holding a public meeting like that, naturally makes me think of the Oklahoma city council meeting that preceded Zach Harrington’s suicide.  Those meetings are equal doses hateful and hopeful.  But only hopeful if   the compassionate, the concerned, the masses of silent bystanders speak up for the small minority who members of the community are trying to erase.  

Only if people show up and say this is my community and I will not tolerate discrimination.  These are my children and I wont let them go to a school where gender and sexual orientation difference is punished and run off by an angry mob. 

So when the world dresses in purple to support LGBTQ youth and say we are with you and your life is valuable that is a wonderful thing.  And for one day the marginalized can see you standing up for their lives.  But the year has 365 days. And and LGBTQ student hears approximately 14 anti-gay slurs per day on every one of those days.  

So if wore your purple, or even if you didn’t and you are looking for a next step Basic Rights Oregon has just sent out an action alert for the Beaverton School Board meeting this coming Monday:  

Beaverton Superintendent Jerry Colonna will discuss the decision to reinstate Seth Stambaugh at the next Beaverton School Board meeting this Monday (10/25/10). We know that those who oppose the decision will be out in force and we need to make a strong showing of support. Join BRO as we deliver the message that fairness is a Beaverton value!

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4 Comments

Filed under Sexual Orientation, Uncategorized

4 responses to “If you wore purple for a day… perhaps this could be your next step

  1. *SIGH*! One thing that I increasingly like about NJ is that while the public has the right to attend public school board meetings, they don’t necessarily have the right to comment. So, if you’re not on the agenda, you’re not going to be able to say a word. In an ideal world, this would be seen as closing off public debate on important issues of the day. But in too many instances, it’s an opportunity for folks to hijack public education for their own, often destructive, ends.

    I wish the good people of Beaverton peace and calmness at this critical board meeting on Monday night.

  2. Pingback: News updates on schooling homophobia from across blogland | Schooling Inequality

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