Saturday, June 02, 2007

How to convince schools to keep gay kids safe

Okay, no technique works all the time, but this has worked with me.

As I have said before I live in a Very Red State (US) and I live in a very conservative town.

So much so, in fact, that Evan got fired from a local franchise of a Major Fast Food Chain because he complained about other employees using the word "f*g." It showed a lack of team spirit, apparently. I actually know a lawyer who is a member of PFLAG who said that it was entirely legal. Unless the corporation had a policy about it, there was nothing we could do. The lawyer friend was willing to look into it for Evan, but Evan did not call the lawyer back. It is possible that the reasons for Evan's firing were more complex than he told us. The point is however that it is legal in my state to fire someone for being gay or even filing an official complaint over being harassed.

For a while we had a superintendent of schools who passed out business cards with Bible versus on them.

I'm not kidding here.

And yet the local schools are committed to keeping my kids safe. Part of it could just be that we have been lucky, but part of it might be that I accidentally hit on a technique for dealing with school administrations.

When Carl was here, I did just get lucky. Well, somewhat so. The principal at the time was a woman who was very determined that no kid get bullied for any reason whatsoever. Though she would not let me leave PFLAG literature at the school, she did make it clear to Carl that no one was allowed to call him names. In the last couple of days a senior apparently decided that she no longer had any way to punish him, and started up again. The principal told the bully that if he so much as looked at Carl funny she would not allow him to walk at graduation; she would just mail his diploma home.

She left and a new principal came in, but I just assumed that the new administration would be at least as supportive. When David moved in he was nervous about going to the local high school. So I made an appointment with the dean of students and the principal. It went like this.

Me: "David is worried about anti-gay harassment and after Carl's experience I know he will be safe here. So I wanted to bring him in so that you could reassure him."

Administrators then told David all about how great they thought the school was.

Me: "Now David, I know I can't promise that no one will ever call you a name, but I know this school and they won't allow it to continue." Me to the administrators: "If someone does call him a name, which one of you should he go to?"

Surprised, they tell me that of course he can go to either one.

Me: "See David, these men are here to protect you. Even if some of the students are a$$es, the administration isn't. They will keep you safe."

Me to the administrators, sympathetically, "Listen, I know this is a conservative town and and some of the students can say horrible things." Administrators briefly look relieved but less so as I start to get animated, "and I want to give you all the ammunition you need. My husband and I are behind you 100%. If you have trouble with a kid please feel free to tell the parents that David's parents are willing to do whatever they have to do. You can tell them for me that I will have their kid arrested for assault if necessary."

The administrators look a little panicked; they tell me they are sure that will never be necessary. I calm down and agree that I should hold myself in check. I know what a good experience Carl had here and I should not worry. I trust them and I know I won't have to call the police or a lawyer to make sure my kid is safe at their school.

We smiled and shook their hands. I asked David if he felt safe here now. David assured me he did.

Later he told me that I had put the fear of G-d into the Dean of Students. "He's not for gay people, but he is really for my safety. He's scared to death that someone will call me a name and you will sue them."

I told David I had no idea why. I had never once threatened the school.


  1. I want to be there the next time you have a meeting. Goodness, Have you tried that at the state level? Maybe that is what we need to repeal DOMA.

    I know several presidential candidates who could use that very same lecture. Some blue, some red.

  2. There ain't nothing that will make administration shutter more than a Mom with a mission. I love it!


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