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November 10, 2009
>Tharptown High School in Alabama has denied the request of lesbian student Cynthia Stewart to bring her girlfriend to prom later this school year. It appears the school may have even gone so far as to cancel prom altogether to ensure that that nasty federal Constitution doesn't get in the way.
The ACLU has sent a letter to the school district on behalf of the student and her guardian to ask the school to do the right thing and reverse the school decision. Federal law and considerable case law (including a recent decision in Alabama) prohibit schools from discriminating against students based on the sex of their date to a school event.
Says Stewart very poignantly in the ACLU's release:
"I can't believe my school is doing all of this just to keep me from bringing my girlfriend to the prom," said Stewart, a 17-year-old student who, as a member of the prom planning committee, has personally raised over $200 for the prom and created the theme her classmates chose for the dance. "All I want is to be able to be myself and go to my prom with the person I love, just like any other student wants to do."
But why stop the discrimination at prom? The principal also allegedly told Stewart that she had to remove a sticker she was wearing that said, "I am a lesbian."
Stewart said that when she told the principal she had a First Amendment right to wear the sticker, he replied, "You don't have that much freedom of speech at school."
Uh, yeah, she does.
November 06, 2009
>13-year-old Lane is an 8th grader from Columbia, S.C., who has decided to tell his heartbreaking story of experiencing anti-LGBT bullying in school. Kudos to local TV station WIS News 10 for helping to raise awareness about one of the most common forms of bullying in school.
How Lane identifies is unclear, though the mother says he is not gay. His identity, of course, is besides the point and completely irrelevant. Anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in school is a pervasive problem that affects LGBT and straight students.
Lane says he's always been different. In the last year, putdowns from other students have become more hostile and much more personal.
"I've been called gay, queer." When he's called the F-word that ends with the letter G, "It can really affect someone in how you look at yourself in the mirror every morning."
Watch the news segment here.
November 05, 2009
>Last week at Durango High School in Colorado, juniors and seniors overheard an Army recruiter using a "gay slur and an expletive" while taking a military-supervised aptitude test. The incident has irked students, faculty and parents alike, leading to an apology from the Army's Denver Recruiting Battalion for the lack of professional conduct.
November 04, 2009
When these rappers say "no homo," it can seem a bit like a gentleman's agreement, nodding to the status quo while smuggling in a fuller, less hamstrung notion of masculinity. This is still a concession to homophobia, but one that enables a less rigid definition of the hip-hop self than we've seen before. It's far from a coup, but, in a way, it's progress.
He retreats inside himself
Where he lives life itself in secret
Daddy says people go to hell for being
What he is, and he certainly believes him
'Cause there ain't no flame that can blaze enough
To trump being hated for the way you love
And cry yourself to sleep and hate waking up
It's a cold world, y'all, shame on us!
November 02, 2009
>A note from GLSEN Public Policy Director Shawn Gaylord on the passage of an anti-bullying policy in Birmingham schools that includes protections for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression:
I was so excited to see this news from Alabama. Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition gathering and was so aware of the difficulty safe schools organizers face working in some of the more conservative areas of the country. Seeing progress like this in Alabama, as well as last year’s statewide gay and transgender-inclusive anti-bullying law in North Carolina, proves that there are opportunities for safe schools victories everywhere, and I am grateful for the work of Howard, the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition and everyone working to make this a reality.
As we know, enumerated anti-bullying policies are essential to creating a truly safe environment for LGBT youth and having a generic policy is about the same as having no policy at all. Congratulations to Howard for his work to make schools safer for all youth in Birmingham.
November 02, 2009
>Great news from Alabama! Last week, Birmingham's Board of Education passed two critical pieces of legislation affecting city schools. The first policy--the most comprehensive anti-bullying policy in the state of Alabama--includes enumerated categories specifically protecting students against bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. The second policy protects LGBT teachers from harassment as well.
I first gathered anti-bullying policies from multiple school districts that I felt encompassed what we needed in our policy, and then drafted a policy for Birmingham schools. I then began the long process of having conversation with each board member about why this was important not just as a board policy but also about why it was the right thing to do. I told them my own story of growing up in Birmingham City Schools and being harassed and bullied–and how I carried that pain with me still today. I also helped them to understand how that impacted me and my education. As part of a broader strategic planning process, my fellow board members all agreed that we wanted safer school environments for ALL our children.
- heard biased remarks more frequently and experienced higher levels of victimization in relation to sexual orientation than students in other regions
- were less likely than all other students to report that staff frequently intervened when hearing homophobic remarks
- reported higher levels of other forms of victimization--because of their race, sex, and religion--than students in other regions
November 02, 2009
October 31, 2009
October 30, 2009
October 28, 2009
>Good news from MI tonight via Todd Heywood of the Michigan Messenger.
A local Shiawassee County school board plans to hold a meeting as soon as Monday to rescind a decision it made Oct. 23 to order the removal of an extracurricular club display honoring gay history month.
“We have violated the First Amendment rights of the students and the Diversity Club,” Maureen Stanley, president of the Corunna Board of Education, said. “We limited their expression.”
Eliza Byard, executive director of the national group Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network, said Tuesday she was very worried about the message the board move sent to students, even after the announcement the decision would be rescinded.
In an e-mail Wednesday, Byard wrote: “We thank the school board for recognizing the damage its decision has done to creating an educational environment where difference is valued and respected.”
At the same time, Byard said, she hoped the board would consider the importance of encouraging diversity in educational settings, saying, “While the clear violations of the law stopped them short, the board members should also be taken aback by the educational impoverishment of a curriculum that erases facets of our common history and the reality of life in a diverse society.”