Blatant Discrimination in Memphis School
April 30th, 2008
The Hollis F. Price Middle College High School is undoubtedly a successful school. As a collaboration between the Memphis school district and LeMoyne-Owen College, it provides an opportunity for gifted African-American students to earn credits towards their college degrees while still in high school. And by selecting only 150 of the district’s best students, it avoids many of the problems that plague public schools: fighting, truancy, and falling educational standards.
And Hollis F. Price has admirable stated ideals and intentions including
We believe that every member of our learning community has value and worth and has the right to be respected.
All students enrolled at Hollis F. Price Early Middle College are able to participate in many of the approved and available high school and college organizations and activities.
But in her effort to provide an ideal educational environment, Principal Daphne Beasley went way beyond what is appropriate or even legal.
Seeking to eliminate public displays of affection, Beasley asked that students and teachers report suspected romantic couples to her. She then compiled a list and posted it where teachers and other students could read it.
Although this is disturbing in itself, Beasley left all measure of reasonableness when a pair of boys hit her list. Although both boys were A students, had never displayed any public affection, and were an asset to any learning institution, that didn’t stop Beasley from seeking to humiliate them. Memphis Eyewitness News reports
One of the young men, Nicholas, an 11th grader who just made the Dean’s List, spoke with Eyewitness News Everywhere.
“It was actually frightening,” he says, “to see a list with my name on it where not just other teachers could see but students as well.”
Nicholas says his teachers and other students treat him differently as a result of Principal Beasley’s decision and that he and Andrew have both had to deal with verbal assaults. Nicholas was also not allowed to go on a trip to New Orleans to help rebuild homes because, as one of his teacher’s explained, he would “embarrass” the school by engaging in gay affection.
“I really feel that my personal privacy was invaded,” Nicholas says. “I mean, Principal Beasley called my mother and outed me to my mother!”
The ACLU stepped in to support the boys and their mothers. Their letter to the school board clarifies some of Beasley’s motivation.
Specifically, we have been informed that during their telephone call about Nicholas’s inclusion on the “list” as being part of a gay couple, Principal Beasley told [Nicholas’ mother] that she did not like homosexuals and found it hard to deal with homosexuality. Principal Beasley, according to [Nicholas’ mother’s] contemporaneous notes, then informed her that homosexuality would not be tolerated at Hollis F. Price and that she was glad that she didn’t have any kids so she wouldn’t have to deal with these kinds of problems.
Ms. Beasley clearly does not believe that her school’s “all students” statements include gay students, no matter how well behaved. Such an attitude is not conducive to an unbiased and discrimination-free learning environment, and either Principal Beasley should lose it or she should find some form of employment in which she doesn’t have to deal with persons that she does not like.