Something positive …

Given the latest developments in Chapter 21, I thought that it might be nice to focus my blog posting this week on something positive.

So off I went in search of something uplifting and, lo and behold, we do have some good news to report … and some even better news as well.

As you may recall, not too long ago I chronicled the problems a group of students in Madisonville, Tennesssee, were experiencing in their efforts to create a Gay Straight Alliance at school. Here is the original posting. Among other things, we had the spectacle of the school’s principal assaulting a (non-gay) student who had chosen to wear a t-shirt supporting the creation of such a club.

Although the students still have not been given permission to form the club at this point in time, they did win a victory of sorts when the the Monroe County Board of Education, where Madisonville in located, agreed to allow students to wear t-shirts in support of the formation of a gay-straight alliance (GSA) at the school. This decision came after the school district was threatened with a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. You can read more about that here.

I want to congratulate the students for this victory. Hopefully they’ll be given the right to form a GSA in the future: “While it’s encouraging that the school district has vowed to review its dress code, Sequoyah High School still lacks a safe place where LGBT students and their peers can gather to support each other,” said Amanda Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project. “The events of the last few weeks show that the need for a GSA is greater than ever, and that the school needs to take seriously its obligation to protect all students from harassment and bullying.”

In a somewhat related development, it seemed like a similar case was brewing in Bangor, Pennsylvania. Students there wanted to form a GSA as well. And what do you know? That turned out to be a bit controversial with some in the community. Apparently the students were encouraged by an adviser to think about changing the name of the group; and a couple of school board members weighed in as well with a proposal to require the students to get permission slips from their parents to join the club, something they did NOT have to do to join any other club at the school.

As homophobes are wont to do, the two school board members reasoned that the GSA was more like a sports team, where permission slips are required (presumably to avoid damaging lawsuits when kids get hurt), than the Chess Club. I kind of doubt that prospective members of the GSA were planning to inflict lots of bodily harm on one another in their effort to stamp out bullying at the school, but why use your brain when giving vent to your prejudices is so much more satisfying. But one astute observer did raise an interesting question about the permission slips: “If the parents do not give their permission to the student to be gay, does that mean they have to be straight?”

Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed when it became apparent that the school district was opening itself up to being sued. You can read about this one here.

The bottom line is that gay students and their friends are getting a lot smarter about their rights. They are beginning to realize that they don’t have to accept second-class citizenship. Nor do they have to accept arbitrary behavior by homophobic school administrators and school boards. The fact that they’re willing to stand up and be counted is terrific.

Let’s hope that reason will also prevails in New Hampshire where efforts to repeal same sex marriage equality have moved forward in the Republican controlled state House of Representatives. It’s hard to know whether this has any chance of going anywhere or is simply an effort to corral the bigot vote in New Hampshire. Still, it’s a useful reminder that there are political forces out there working day in and day out to roll back the progress LGBT people have made in recent years. So be alert. It could happen in your own community.

We’ve talked a lot about bullying on this blog, including here and here. To end on another up note, here is a really terrific article out of the United Kingdom that I came across and wanted to call to your attention. It shows that bullying doesn’t have to be the norm in schools. Let’s hope it’s true.

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