Monthly Archives: April 2011

It’s the forest, not the tree…

(Reuters) Wednesday, April 27, 2011 – A school board in Clovis, New Mexico, voted to ban all extra-curricular clubs from meeting during school hours after a gay-straight alliance applied to become a club.

Every now and again I post an article about a school district administrator or a local politician’s  hostile response to student desires to form a Gay-Straight Alliance.  And for a minute I think to myself, well sure that’s the way they are in  Corpus Christi…I mean Toronto… I mean Rhode Island

Then I think, didn’t I just post on another news story that was sort of similar to this.  One where a school administrator was going on the 6 o’clock news to explain why he sent a kid home for looking too gay?  He wasn’t punishing the kid, mind you, just sending him/her home because that darn gayness was making school unsafe.  Kind of like allowing a GSA might make things unsafe for the principal at his next golf game?  But you know, I guess that just the way they think in Florida… I mean Louisiana … I mean Tennessee

At least up in the Northland, my home state of Minnesota, administrators know how to keep their mouths shut about the lives of gay youth in schools.  In fact the Anoka-Hennipen school district has made a written policy and an art out of professional silence in the wake of suicide after suicide of LGBT youth in their schools.

And then my random associative thoughts regain focus and scurry back across the map to land again in Clovis, New Mexico.  There on Tuesday night, the Clovis school board decided to prohibit any extra-curricular club from meeting during school hours or using school resources to meet and gather.  This decision was announced on the same week an upstart G.S.A. was openly planning to hold a first meeting.

See what you gays have done.  Now all 14 extra-curricular clubs are shut down, including The Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

And don’t forget to throw in that point about how the gays are ruining the lives of Christians.  Superintendent Julie Carbajal down in Corpus made sure to pit a hand full of allies and gay kids trying to start a GSA against the entire Christian community in her school district as well.  These are not new or unique moves.  These are not special locations where people are particularly hateful.

THIS is where we are. 

And so I think, it starts right here.  Right here.  Where ever in this diverse country right here is. 

Instead of saying, we can’t do that here because you know how people are in this town… in this state… in this part of the country…

We start saying, you know how people are…

So we’ve GOT to do this right here.

There are kids dying, and kids brutally attacking kids, and families falling or tearing one another apart.

All because pink toe nail polish doesn’t gel with the Great Santini’s parenting plans.

So, no.  I guess it’s not just the way they are in New Mexico.  It’s a whole damn forbidden forest. 

So it seems to me that it is more than time to pick a side and start clearing wood.

Right here.

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Boy wears heels to school… Principal protects him by kicking him out of school

This week a male Florida high school student was sent to the principal’s office and then removed from school for wearing high-heeled shoes to class.  You can see the news coverage of this incident interviewing the site principal Bob Heilmann here.

I just felt all kinds of ick when I watched this principal with his amused smirk talk about how his administration handled this young man and another young man who later protested his removal. 

Here are the stand out leadership failure quotes from the interview…

Leadership Failure Quote #1 from Riverview High School Principal Bob Heilmann:

“As a principal of a high school, I have to take the paternal side and make sure he’s going to be okay.”  According to Principal Heilmann the only safe place for gender expressions that do not conform to his unstated standards is at home.   Rather than focusing on making the school safe, the principal wants us to accept that gender bullying and brutality are inevitable at Riverview High School.  Apparently something as radical as ‘teaching’ students about gender expressions and enforcing a harassment policy are out of the question in Bob’s mind.

Leadership Failure Quote #2 from Riverview High School Principal Bob Heilmann:

“Anytime anyone goes out from, quote, ‘the norm’ or anytime anyone wants to make a statement, you have to be willing to take what comes with it.”   Did Principal Heilmann just suggest marginalized students – those out of ‘the norm’ – are asking for harassment, bullying, and physical violence?  I believe he did.   I wonder what kinds of non-normative statements count as asking to be harassed or attacked at school in Bob’s book?   Is it normal and therefore safe to have a visible disability at Riverview?   What about taking part in non-traditional courses or activities?  For example, do you have to be willing to take what comes with it if you are the only girl in a particular class or club?

Leadership Failure Quote #3 from Riverview High School Principal Bob Heilmann:

“Well one boy wore a dress on Monday.  And uh..after we chatted he decided he did not to want do that.  (pause) I was concerned about his safety.”  Here at the final moment of the interview Mr. Heilmann appears pleased as punch that he terrorized another student in the name of safety.  Can’t you see how things are getting safer and safer all the time around Bob.  Talk about self-fulfilling wishes.

Because obviously it’s the shoes making schools unsafe… here I thought it was t-shirts like the one Dawn Henderson wore,  or the one Cole Goforth wore.  Really if we could just get these  out of the norm kids to stay home no one would have to get hurt. 

I’ve written about this type of educational leadership failure in the past.  Those all too common moments when administrators take to the air to blame victims, normalize violence in their schools, and pose as the moral authority all in one fell swoop.

I’ve also written about educators who have done the exact opposite in cases like the San Francisco Town School’s field trip ado.  In that news story the school’s administration was publicly challenged for taking students to San Francisco’s Castro District to learn about gay history.  In response Town School administrator Brewster Ely sent a wonderful letter to all parents that closed with the following statement:

It is my hope that these events ultimately engender an even greater appreciation for diversity and a respect for all people.

I close with a statement from our Town School philosophy: Town values being a diverse community that nurtures integrity, sensitivity and respect in its boys, and prepares them to become productive and contributing members of an ever-changing world.

So yes, there clearly is another way  to educate children and to create a ‘safe’ school, Mr. Heilmann.  But you won’t find it until you start looking.

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Comforting the afflicted

Central United Methodist Church, Toldeo, Ohio

Here is part of what the church website has to say about this billboard and campaign:

COMMUNITY CAMPAIGN: “Being Gay is a Gift from God”

The purpose of this campaign is 1) to offer welcome to all persons who are gay; 2) to challenge the larger Church to fully accept persons who are gay into the life of the Church; and 3) to call on all people to bring all the gifts of who they are to God.

Monday, April 25, 2011, is the official launch of the campaign with an electronic billboard at Monroe Street and Sylvania Avenue, as shown above.

JoeMyGod posted a link to this ‘big smiles’ picture today – and it really made my day.

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Rainbow trees and totems

For the past few years I have had the amazing good fortune to be in an education program that is working to be proactive in addressing gender identity and sexual orientation issues of discrimination and inequality in public education.

This is the second year I have been encouraged and supported in holding a public educational event on LGBTQ issues in education.  This year the event, UOTeachOUT, will take place on May 9th and right now we are gearing up for that day’s activities.

Recently the College Communications Department’s awesome artists designed and presented me with the poster for this event.  I gave them an overview of what my little committee of educators are up to with UOTeachOUT.  What you see here is a unique design that sprang forth from their imaginations in response to the notion that schools can be embracing, inclusive, and visible places that honor and acknowledge the diversity of their students and families.

A rainbow tree where everyone is sheltered by the joyful shade of difference and community.

Wow.

Well this is a beautiful image in and of itself.  Yet to me the image resonated with something deeper.

For some 15 years ago, when I was a budding school teacher, I wrote a short story for my young nephew who is now a highschool sophomore.  A story about a rainbow tree.

I never shared this story with the designers of this poster.  In fact I haven’t really thought about all those little children’s poems I used to write for my nieces and nephews in quite some time. Continue reading

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Tennessee’s ‘Gays are Dirty’ Education Bill; Tyler Clementi’s Dorm-mate Bully Charged with a Hate Crime; and Two More Bullied Minnesota Teens Commit Suicide

Three national news stories about unrelenting gay-hate directed at students in schools hit my in box yesterday and I just can’t ignore them.

At the same time I don’t have the time to really think them through deeply by blogging about them today. So I’ll pass them along and you can know that I am thinking about them, as I expect you are too.

1.) Don’t Say Gay Bill Clears Senate Panel Tennessee
KNOXNEWS article excerpt:

NASHVILLE – After some convoluted maneuvers, a Senate committee Wednesday approved a bill that will prohibit teachers from discussing homosexuality in kindergarten through eighth-grade classrooms.

2.) Roommate Faces Hate Crime Charges in Rutgers Case New Jersey
New York Times excerpt:

A New Jersey grand jury on Wednesday indicted the roommate of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who killed himself in September, on hate-crime charges in using a webcam to stream Mr. Clementi’s romantic encounter with another man on the Internet in the days before the suicide.

…“The grand jury indictment spells out cold and calculated acts against our son Tyler by his former college roommate,” they said in a new statement. “If these facts are true, as they appear to be, then it is important for our criminal justice system to establish clear accountability under the law.” Statement released by Mr. Clementi’s parents, Joseph and Jane Clementi.

3.)  Suicide Pact: Minnesota Teens Haylee Fentress and Paige Moravetz Commit Suicide at Slumber Party  Minnesota

Two eighth grade 14-year-old girls committed suicide:

From the Huffington Post:

After repeatedly indicating that they were bullied and felt ostracized, Paige Moravetz and Haylee Fentress took their lives at a sleepover in what family members believe was a suicide pact.

And from ABC news from Marshall excerpt: 

The two girls were so close, Haylee had hyphenated her last name on Facebook to include Paige’s last name.

Haylee was recently expelled from school for defending Paige during a fight in school, Settle said.

Calls and emails to the Marshall School District to confirm this were not returned.

“That was really weighing on her, missing her friends and being excluded from school. She felt like she was defending herself and her friend,” Settle said.

So there you have it North, South, and East… if I had a little more time I’d pull up a West Coast story of anti-gay hate and bullying in schools to cover the U.S. map.

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HIR – Wednesday Poetry SLAM

This is a poem by Alysia Harris & Aysha El Shamayleh, it is about the dual identities of a transgender person.

Melissa sits in the back of the classroom afraid to speak up,
She pulls akwardly at her extra loose khaki cargo pants,
She doesn’t want the boys to notice her.
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An antidote for hate?

In a newly published study in the journal Pediatrics researchers from Columbia University analyzed a survey about the attitudes and experiences of 31,852 Oregon 11th-graders.

Since the survey actually asked students to identify their sexual orientation (a data point other research bodies refuse to take in) the data set allows for some statistical measurements and interpretations of the long-held findings related to LGBTQ youth and suicide.

The initial finding is simply confirming and consistent with decades of research on LGBT youth and suicide:

22% of LGBTQ youth express suicidal ideation
4% of their hetero peers do the same

buttttttt….
Guess what… Continue reading

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