This isn’t the first time I’ve made a right/bad decision, and it probably won’t be the last either. I guess it’s just the way I’m made.
“Well… it’s probably a good thing that you don’t plan on teaching too many more years.”
This was my wife’s response after I informed her recently of my decision to become the sponsor of a new club at the North-Central Texas high school where I teach. The club, unless the school board wants to try to stop it, will be an affiliate group of the national GSA organization (Gay-Straight Alliance). It’ll be a group of self-identified gay and lesbian students as well as any “straight” sexually-oriented students that might be supportive of the club’s purpose, which is: to promote tolerance, understanding, and acceptance through social aware- ness. The club will most definitely not be for the purpose of promoting behavior or persuasions considered to be deviant by many.
Yes, in Texas. We’re still part of the United States, you know, and according Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC & P) guidelines on preventing unintentional injuries and violence in public schools, published December 7, 2001 and never rescinded during the GWB years http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5022a1.htm, school administrators are compelled to combat victimization of minority groups, and that’s what this club will be about — keeping kids safe.
“Regardless of a child’s ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, sexual orientation, or physical status, all children have a right to safety. When victimization through bullying, verbal abuse, and physical violence is prevalent in a school, the entire school community experiences the consequences. When abuse against a particular group is perceived as acceptable, intergroup hatreds can become established… Students who are different from the majority of their classmates because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or other personal characteristics are at increased risk for being bullied. Gay, lesbian, or bisexual students, and students perceived to be gay by their peers are often victims of repeated verbal abuse and physical assault.”
Our principal has informed me that he thinks there would be no legal way, ultimately, for him to deny this group the right to organize and assemble on school property while allowing other groups the same right such as our conservative, faith-based group of students calling themselves, “Youth Alive”. He said that, had I not said, “yes,” to the openly gay, purpose-driven young organizer who had approached me with the request to sponsor the club, he’d have probably had to find a sponsor for it, sponsor it himself, or else withdraw permission for all non-academic or athletic groups to have school-sponsored clubs.
Learning of this young organizer’s personal history of abuse (personal attacks, both verbal and physical) against which he finally defended himself and had spent time in reform school for having done so, I came to fully appreciate his passion for wanting to start a GSA club at our school. His story put a face on the many other stories that I had heard in the news over the years about gay-bashing and horrible atrocities.
Nation-wide, there are legal battles on-going over whether administrators and school boards can deny GSA clubs the right to organize and to meet on school property. Right here in Texas, the Lubbock Independent School District trustees have said that they will do all that they legally can do to prevent a gay group from meeting on school property http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=102×15804. So, the GSA group there has taken their case to federal court. Elsewhere in the nation, in Salt Lake City a high school settled out-of-court with a GSA group after a federal court ruled against the Okeechobee School District in Florida last summer for denying a GSA group the right to assemble. The court had ordered the Okeechobee School District to pay the group $300,000 in court and attorney fees http://psychescientia.blogspot.com/2008/08/federal-court-says-okeechobee-high.html. Our school district will probably not want to go down either of these routes, but they may just decide to wait and see what happens in the Lubbock School District case — buying some time. We’ll soon find out.
Now, before you start wondering – no, I am not gay myself and, yes, I am a Christian and I worship weekly. My wife and I have been married almost forty years; we have three grown sons, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild now. So, why did I so willingly agree to sponsor this club? I don’t know – it just seemed like the right thing to do – maybe not the smart thing, but definitely the right thing. This isn’t the first time I’ve made a right/bad decision, and it probably won’t be the last either. I guess it’s just the way I’m made. I could have said, “No,” claiming that I was too busy or even that I have a moral issue with gay and lesbian orientations and practices. But that would have been a lie. I believe that all God’s children have a right to be whom and whatever they are so long as their attitudes and behaviors do not harm others.
To offend someone is one thing, for the offence is in the perception of the offended. To abuse someone is something quite different. Abuse is intentional, it is harmful and it is hateful – certainly not Christian behavior – and abuse is what GSA is organized to combat.
I covet your prayers, for me, for our school, and for the community it serves.
Please feel free to post a comment, whether pro or con.