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Posts for October, 2011

Tenn High School Principal Allegedly Threatens Student Over Pro-Gay Tee-shirt

Jim Burroway

October 5th, 2011

A seventeen-year-old senior at Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, Tennessee, was reportedly shoved, bumped in the chest and verbally harassed by the school’s principal for wearing a tee-shirt supporting students’ efforts to launch a gay-straight alliance. In response, the ACLU of Tennessee is calling on the school district to protect the students’ rights to free speech in the classroom.

According to a press release from the ACLU of Tennessee:

[Chris] Sigler wore a homemade T-shirt to school last Tuesday that said “GSA: We’ve Got Your Back.” A teacher ordered Sigler to cover up the shirt in the future. Sigler, knowing he had a right to wear the shirt, wore it again Friday, and resisted an order to remove the shirt. Sigler says that [Principal Maurice] Moser then ordered all students out of the classroom, except for Sigler’s sister Jessica, who refused to leave. According to both students, Moser then grabbed Sigler’s arm, shoved him, and chest-bumped him repeatedly while asking “Who’s the big man now?” Sigler’s mother reported that when she arrived at the school, she saw her son seated in a desk with Moser leaning over him and shouting in Sigler’s face. The Siglers filed a report about the incident that afternoon with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.

Students at  Sequoyah have been trying to start a GSA during the school year, but have been blocked and threatened with suspension by the school’s principal.

The ACLU says that if the school doesn’t receive an satisfactory answer by October 11, they will explore legal options, including filing a complaint in federal court. Assistant Director of Schools Tim Blankenship responded:

“The Monroe County School System is aware of the alleged accusations. We have received written statements from all eyewitnesses. Our documentation clearly indicated that there are always two sides to every story. We’ll gladly provide more information as it becomes available.”

Tennessee School Alledgedly Threatens Students Over Gay-Straight Alliance

Jim Burroway

September 12th, 2011
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Students at Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, Tennessee, have identified a need:

Just yesterday, students across the room would yell, ‘God hates gays,’” said (SQHS Senior Nathan) Carroll. “There is not going to be a gay club in this school. We don’t deserve it.”

Carroll says he has experienced bullying since the sixth grade, and so he and other students decided to try to start a Gay-Straight Alliance to serve as a support group. He and other students approached school officials about starting a GSA, but they were denied permission. They then decided to circulate a petition to gain support. Opposing students have also started a competing petition. The school’s principal, Maurice Moser, then announced over the school’s P.A. that any student found with a petitions would have the petition torn up and thrown away and the individual would be immediately sent to his office for further punishment. Another parent says:

“These students have been following policy and they approached the principal,” said Linda Sigler, who has two children involved in getting the alliance started. “They’ve done this petition and now the school is telling them if they continue with the petition, they will be suspended.”

Anti-Gays Scam Insurance Providers

Timothy Kincaid

March 27th, 2009

Maple Grove High School fought like the dickens to keep its gay students from meeting.

Although the Equal Access Act provides that schools have to allow all non-curricular student groups the same access, Maple Grove thought they knew better.

Their ingenious legal argument? That Straights and Gays for Equity (SAGE) was not a curriculum based organization but that cheerleading, Spirit Club, synchronized swimming, and the Black Achievers all were.

Nice try, but no first year law students would bet that outcome.

New York Law School Professor Arthur S. Leonard wrote, “The result in this case was quite predictable, because to date no school system anywhere in the country has ultimately prevailed in its attempt to exclude a gay-straight alliance while allowing other non-curricular student organizations to continue operating at their schools, and federal judges have uniformly rejected by attempts by the schools to mischaracterize social groups as “curricular” in order to escape the requirements of the statute.

But why did they go to court? And, having lost once, why did they appeal?

And isn’t all this futile legal work expensive? You bet it is. The Minneapolis – St. Paul Star Tribune reports just how expensive.

Osseo schools got hit with a king-size legal bill — $460,143 — in its fight to keep a Maple Grove High School student-run gay-rights group from having the same privileges as other, officially approved, school clubs.

OK. That’s a WOW moment. In this age of shrinking budgets and tightening purse-strings, 460 grand is a lot of money to me. But it didn’t cause the School Board to blink.

Asked about the legal fees, [Osseo schools spokeswoman Barbara] Olson replied:

“The district must pay those costs. It just so happens that all the costs are being reimbursed by our insurance.”

That’s right.

The school can go through nearly a half-million dollars on a lawsuit it knows it’s going to lose, all for nothing other than spiting its gay students. Because it’s insured and if it causes all the insurance rates to go up, well at least it got its day in court to besmirch and denigrate gays.

It is time that insurance companies cease to be the pawns and patsies of these anti-gay frauds.

They certainly wouldn’t fund a lawsuit for a principal seeking to place the cafeteria off-limits to black students or a lawsuit for a school board that wanted to force Jews to pray to Jesus. These are surefire losers and a predictable waste of money.

So too are legal efforts to ban gay students from equal access.

These school insurers need to look these principals in the eye and say, “Sorry, Bub, but if you want to run up legal bills to defend discrimination and bigotry, you’re going to have to do it on your own dime.”

Wasting Taxpayer Money for Jesus

Timothy Kincaid

March 7th, 2009

Prior to 1984, some religiously devout students in some less supportive locations found it difficult to observe their faith in public schools. While they watched the chess club and fan clubs meet without restriction, requests for a Bible club were routinely denied.

To remedy that inequality, Congress passed the Equal Access Act which said that if a school allowed any non-curriculum student-led organizations, then it had to allow other such organizations to meet. Churches rejoiced and Bible clubs sprang up across the nation.

But, as is often the case, those who sought remedy for discrimination against themselves soon found that such protections also applied when they were the oppressors. And, ironically, perhaps those students who have most utilized Equal Access Act have not been Christian kids denied access by liberal secular humanists, but rather gay and lesbian kids denied access by anti-gay Christians.

The ACLU has now established a long history of using the Equal Access Act to force public schools to allow gay students and their friends to organize and work to oppose discrimination and inequality. In case after case, judges have found that if the Fellowship of Christian Athletes can meet after school in a classroom, then so can the Gay Straight Alliance.

Schools with anti-gay authorities aren’t too pleased about this. And they have frequently tried to bar gay and gay-friendly students from meeting, going to court and indignantly defending their position.

They generally argue that gay clubs are sexual hook-up clubs whose purpose is to advocate for immoral sexual behaviors -and provide sex partners – and that because they are an “abstinence only” school then they have a right to deny this “sex club”. Or they may argue that there is already a generic anti-bigotry club (usually in actuality a black or Hispanic student club) so there’s no need for a club to support gay students. Some – with a perfectly straight face – will argue that if gay students identify as such they will be picked on so the school needs to protect gay students by not allowing them to meet.

These arguments tend to be recognized as the defense of homophobia that they are and judges don’t often find them very persuasive. In fact, I can’t think of a single instance in which the courts found that schools, principals, or school boards could deny equal access to gay students.

About the best that a school can hope for is to be allowed to deny access to all non-curricular clubs. And some have found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to take proactive steps towards affirming their gay students in what is obviously a hostile environment.

And they are not cheap. The Okeechobee County School Board recently paid $326,000 in attorneys fees only to be told that not only could the GSA meet on campus but that the school board had an obligation to provide for the well-being of gay students. And even if the loss of such a suit is covered by insurance, it plays havoc with insurance rates for schools everywhere.

So why, then, do school boards try so desperately to fight to exclude gay kids? In a time in which communities are hurting and budgets are tight, when parents are losing jobs and tax bases are eroding, why do these elected officials allocate hundreds of thousands of dollars for an effort that is almost certain to be a lost cause?

Well, I think we can find a clue in the Florida Baptist Witness story about the School Board of Nassau County and their desire to keep students at Yulee High School from starting a gay supportive club with the word “gay” in the name. The students were told that they needed to change the name of the organization to exclude sexual orientation in order to comply with school board policy and be allowed to meet.

In other words, you can get together but you can’t be gay.

Leading the charge against these students is Nassau County Schools superintendent John Ruis. He doesn’t want to let the gay students be “in conflict and at odds with regard to somebody’s freedom of speech or expression” and thinks that “you try and deal with [homosexuality] for the safety and the wellbeing of the children”.

But it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion at this point that the school board is going to lose. So why does Ruis continue spending taxpayer money – or risk insurance rates for years to come – on this case? I think I can guess.

Ruis said he appreciated the prayers and support of his church friends like Bryan, pastor of Brandy Branch Baptist, who he taught as a young man in Sunday School.

Nuff said.

UPDATE

In what is surely no surprise to anyone:

A federal judge this afternoon [3/11/09] ordered Nassau County schools to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance to meet at Yulee High School while a court battle over the right of the club to meet is pending.

Anti-Gay FL School Board Hit With Legal Fees

Timothy Kincaid

July 28th, 2008

ddavis.bmpIn May we told you about Principal David Davis at Panama City, Florida’s Ponce de Leon High School. Mr. Davis was unhappy that a gay student had friends and supporters so he banned all positive messages about gays or equality, be it by button, armband, sticker or symbol. The ACLU didn’t find that amusing and sued Davis and his school board.

I commented at the time that Davis seemed astonishingly stupid. My opinion hasn’t changed.

Davis outed a gay student to her parents, organized a “morality assembly”, and interrogated students about their orientation, and suspended students that were part of the “Gay Pride” movement.

Now the judge has issued his opinion (pdf) and has awarded legal recovery to the plaintiffs. And Davis’ homophobia cost the district $325,000 in legal fees and cost (plus a dollar to the plaintiff).

As for Davis, (WTVY)

Davis has chosen to return to the classroom and teach American government and other classes.

Somehow I don’t think that the curricula involving the First Amendment will receive the attention that it deserves.

Principal Resigns Over Gay-Straight Alliance

Jim Burroway

May 22nd, 2008

Eddie WalkerIrmo, S.C. High School Principal Eddie Walker announced that he will resign, following the creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club at his school over his objections. That announcement came after the school district determined that he had not grounds to prevent the club’s formation.

Walker’s stated objections to the club were based on his own personal religious convictions. He also falsely accused the GSA of encouraging sexual behavior:

In fact our sex education curriculum is abstinence based. I feel the formation of a Gay/Straight Alliance Club at Irmo High school implies that students joining the club will have chosen to or will choose to engage in sexual activity with members of the same sex, opposite sex, or members of both sexes.

Gay-Straight Alliances have been established in hundreds of school districts across the country to provide a safe place for LGBT students and their allies, where they can find support and guidance. One student who attended a high school with a GSA remarked:

People used to make fun of and beat up gay people, just because they were different. This is actually a program to make everyone feel that they belong.”

I think Principal Walker made the right decision. If there’s someone who doesn’t belong at Irmo High School, it’s him. Not the LGBT students who attend his school.

Florida School Must Allow Pro-Gay Students

Timothy Kincaid

May 13th, 2008

ddavis.bmp We reported about David Davis, the principal of Ponce de Leon High School who forbid any support for gay students on campus. Now a judge has determined that this censorship cannot be allowed.

Judge Richard Smoak of the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida, Panama City Division, issued an order that forces the school to stop its unconstitutional censorship of students who want to express their support for the fair and equal treatment of gay people. The judge also warned the district not to retaliate against students over the lawsuit.

The ACLU has more information on their website including a draft of the judge’s comments. Smoak was not particularly sympathetic to Davis, the School Board, or their attorneys.

I think the School Board may have take a different direction in this case and responded differently perhaps with wiser counsel.

He was particularly unimpressed by the School Superintendant’s “investigation” into the matter, the attorney’s paranoid rantings about a secret/illegal society, and the principal’s fear of imminent chaos.

Supporting Equality Not Allowed at Florida School

Timothy Kincaid

May 12th, 2008

ddavis.bmp David Davis is the principal at Panama City, Florida’s Ponce de Leon High School. He also has some interesting ideas about which symbols are appropriate and which are offensive to wear on clothing at his campus.

For example, WMBB reports

Davis says clothes with the confederate flag are allowed at school. He says they haven’t caused a distraction. Of the 406 students at the high school, none of them are African American.

But if symbols associated with slavery are inoffensive, what ever could be?

Well, that would be any reference whatsoever that you support equality. Yikes!! That could just lead to civil unrest.

It all started when a student who was ridiculed for being gay approached the principal. Instead of protecting her, he advised that she stay in the closet and not talk about her orientation.

That didn’t go over so well with some of the other students. A couple dozen of them thought they’d stand up for their gay classmates.

Days later, Davis heard of students making gay rights signs, and reports of 25 of them coming to school with the letters “GP” or “Gay Pride” written on their hands.

[17 Year old Heather] Gillman says she is not gay, but her cousin (a student at PDL High) is.

Gillman made t-shirts with slogans like:
-”I support equal marriage rights”
-”I support gays”
-”Equal not special rights”

Well Davis couldn’t have that. He suspended eleven students and threatened expulsion. Unlike Confederate symbols, supporting equal marriage rights is against the school dress code.

So Gillman sued David Davis and the Holmes County School Board.

The case is in trial and so far Davis is showing himself to be intensely stupid.

Monday in court, Davis said students who see the slogans and symbols would be distracted in class, even have mental images of gays having sex.

And this is the man they have in charge of education at Ponce de Leon High School.

sigh.

Rural Kentucky High School Student Fights for GSA

Jim Burroway

March 10th, 2008

Ohio County, KY

Ohio County, Kentucky lies in the western part of the state, just south of Owensboro in the Western Coal Fields region. Far from the bright lights of the big city, it’s the last place you’d expect to find a story like this. But this is a new era, and demands for dignity and safety are taking root everywhere:

Clyde Calloway18 year old avid photographer Clyde Calloway is the president of the school choir and a member of the drama club and Kentucky School of the Arts.

The most recent organization he’s joined is the Gay Straight Alliance.

“A lot of people have joined,” Clyde explains. “At first, I was skeptical of what people might think. Now, you see how many people are in there. I feel more open than before.”

So far, membership stands at about fifty people — not bad for a high school student body of 1200. The group has been at Ohio County High for several weeks, but most students didn’t find out about it until the GSA placed a bulletin board in a hallway for poetry and artwork. But threats were posted instead, including one which said that a gun would be brought to the next meeting.

The principal isn’t so sure the school is ready for the GSA, but Clyde says that closing this organization isn’t an option:

“If it’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s don’t let people get you down about stuff. Be strong and if it’s something you really believe in, keep behind it until the end,” says Clyde.

Clyde’s mother, Deborah, sounds like a remarkable woman for having raised such a remarkable son:

“I raised him not to judge other people and he’s just carrying that on,” Deborah concludes. “I’m very proud of him.”

You can see the full video at WBKO Channel 13, Bowling Green.