The rainbow genie still wont go back into her bottle since the East Wichita High School’s newspaper The Messenger printed a poorly written and explicitly homophobic editorial on February 11. The next day the administration claimed the editorial was not disruptive to the educational process (for whom you might ask). Within a week the student editors were puppeted in an editorial response to defend the school’s decision to publish the initial tirade in the school sponsored paper. (here is my original post on this situation)
Today the Wichita Eagle printed a new article on the continued uproar over the decision to publish the original editorial in a school sponsored newspaper. The Eagle’s article also highlights the ongoing decision of the district’s education professionals to suggest that this article and the decision to publish it in a school sponsored paper is not a disruption to the learning environment for East High students. (And by students I guess they mean kids with heterosexual and gender conforming lifestyles.)
The faculty and administration have lots more to say about free speech in this article because as you know public schools are democratic and everyone is there of their own free will and allowed to do and say anything they want at any time. Remember back when you elected your principal and picked all of your teachers and courses?
Oh wait no, that’s not quite right, we have compulsory education with vast numbers of rules and limits on students rights.
But, say the Wichita educators….democratic free speech principles demand that we print an editorial that suggest the majority communities holy book condones executing gay students. What can we do… he’s just a kid with an opinion about the immorality of gays and the need to forcibly remove them from the community… yes he’s a silly boy but can’t you see it’s his right to express these thoughts about his peers in our school sponsored newspaper.
Quick thought, would this same administration have let past another religious based editorial condoning this sort of violent bias against a racial or religious minority group or any other known minority group in the school? Maybe, I don’t want to give them too much credit here, but lets hope that sort of incident would provoke the same public outrage this article continues to generate. (see change.org)
In any case the Wichita School District faculty appear steadfast in their defense of their professional conduct in this matter yet today.
With the journalism advisor noting she sees the condoning of violence toward sexual minority and gender nonconforming youth a from of free speech…
Sharon Martin, who teaches journalism at East High and advises the student newspaper, said she read the column and determined that it met the criteria for protected speech.
And the principal suggesting that gay students are to blame for The Messenger’s failure to print any sort of counter point to the original editorial…
East High Principal Ken Thiessen met with members of his school’s student organization representing students with alternative lifestyles, explained the circumstances leading to publication of this student opinion, and invited students with a different viewpoint to respond with their own opinion piece.
Ken seriously wants to lay blame for the professional silence as to the ‘other side’ in this debate on East’s gay students. I mean he asked them to defend their humanity and right to exist at East and no one spoke up to write a counter editorial.
I wonder does Ken find it odd that no one was willing to print a name to a counter argument about his or her ‘immoral lifestyle’ and potentially justifiable execution. Because as Ken and other community member repeatedly note it is totally safe at East High to be an Out gay student.
Shoot the school paper, The Messenger, has in the past printed many pro-gay articles and the advisor is obviously pro-gay according to those interviewed and those commenting on these articles. Really, East is just a super great place to be gay! Ask every straight person on campus with an opinion and they’ll tell you.
I guess all the gay students Ken thought were solely responsible for speaking up for their humanity and right to exist at East were busy last week.
Of course professional educators like Ken and Sharon could know from the last two decades of school climate research that it is not safe anywhere in the U.S. to be Out in high school. It may be more or less tolerable from place to place but until you graduate when It Get’s Better, or you drop out, or you run away, or you go to an alternative school – you are not safe.
The Wichita school district’s printed response to this situation at the present time includes this statement:
“The opinion of one student writer does not change the Wichita Public Schools’ commitment to providing a safe and nurturing environment for all students.”
Fact: 2009 School Climate Survey: 9 of 10 LGBT students experience harassment at school, with nearly half reporting physical harassment at school and a fourth reporting physical assault at school based upon their sexual orientation: Close to two decades of research confirm this set of statistics.
So Ken, the void of a ‘safe and nurturing environment’ already exists. The article, posted not in a student zine but in the schools official news paper, simply condones it and DOES create a substantial disruption to the educational environment for sexual minority students who are also part of the learning community.
And yes I am still on blog sabbatical – I wish the homo-hating world of public schools would take one too.