There’s No Parental “Liberty” to Dictate Discrimination

Posted by MK on Apr 15, 2014 @ 6:03 am
Texas on Green School Chalkboard

There’s been a bit of a flap in Lumberton, Texas, where school officials suspended transgender school teacher Laura Jane Klug after parents complained that she was a “distraction.” Fortunately, the school district appears now to have reinstated Ms. Klug, though the district says it has not made a final decision, and it has asked her not to come back right away to minimize distraction during a student testing period.

One parent concerned about Klug’s presence in the classroom reportedly said, “Each parent has the individual liberty, individual rights to determine at what age it is appropriate for their children to be exposed to certain things.”

Actually, no. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.

Minnesota on School Chalkboard

Safe-schools advocates and LGBT-equality supporters can celebrate in Minnesota: The state legislature has approved the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, a major expansion of the state’s safe schools law. The governor plans to sign the bill today.

[UPDATE: Twitter has lit up with the news that the governor has signed the Act into law. Per the Act's own terms, some parts of the law will take effect tomorrow (Thursday), other parts in July, and other parts by the start of the next school year. The Pioneer Press provides an additional update here.]

The Act requires school districts to enact anti-bullying policies, and it defines bullying to include, among other things, intimidating and abusive conduct based on a student’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.

Boy Scout Cartoon Figure

I was disappointed to see that, consistent with its strange new policy of allowing openly gay youth while excluding openly gay adults, the Boy Scouts of America recently dismissed an openly gay Scout leader in Seattle, 49-year-old Eagle Scout Geoffrey McGrath.

Reading through stories this past week about the discriminatory decision, I was also dismayed (but not surprised) to see that the Scouts still misrepresent their policy by trying to make it sound like a neutral policy against discussing “sexual orientation” instead of a discriminatory policy against gay and bisexual people.

Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.

Take action to support safe schools in Minnesota!

The Human Rights Campaign reports that Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk will bring the Safe and Supportive Schools Act to a vote this Thursday. As HRC explains, “[t]he vote in the Senate has been seen as the key hurdle to this essential legislation being signed into law. In the last legislative session the bill was blocked in the senate in the final hours after passing the House.”

The legislation would significantly expand the state’s anti-bullying law, currently one of the weakest in the nation. Among many other things, the bill would specifically require schools to address bullying based on actual and perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

In its blog post, HRC provides a way for folks in Minnesota to contact their senators (click on the “quick and effective tool” link within HRC’s blog post).

OutFront Minnesota provides additional information about the bill, and about the organization’s safe schools work, at this link. Outfront also produced the video above. [Update for Safari and iOS users: I've just gotten reports that the video does not play on Safari, including Safari on some iOS devices. But it should work on Chrome and Firefox, as well as Chrome for iOS. You can also see it by visiting YouTube at this link.]

MK

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Arkansas on Green School Chalkboard

I was disappointed to read that gay Arkansas student Taylor Ellis has faced increased homophobia after speaking out against his school’s anti-gay censorship. Administrators at Sheridan High School, south of Little Rock, are refusing to include an interview with Ellis in this year’s yearbook, because the interview discusses Taylor’s coming out as gay. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post—and to learn how to help.

North Carolina on Green School Chalkboard

Earlier this week, I published a post and video about a brave nine-year-old, Grayson Bruce, who had spoken out publicly against bullying after getting verbally and physically attacked at his North Carolina school. Other kids had picked on him relentlessly because they thought his My Little Pony bag was “girlie.” And to make matters worse, school administrators initially responded by telling Grayson not to wear the bag, saying it was the “trigger for bullying.” (Check out my original post for further thoughts on that.)

Fortunately, the school has changed course (though it took a national outcry) and will allow Grayson to wear his bag. Administrators have published the following statement from Grayson’s mother, Noreen Bruce, on the district’s Facebook page:

Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.

Though the school officials’ behavior infuriates me, the young boy at the heart of this news story moves, impresses and inspires me.

A courageous and well-spoken nine-year-old, Grayson Bruce, is standing up publicly to school bullies—and to his school—after facing vicious bullying for his supposed gender nonconformity. Some of the other kids in his North Carolina school district have attacked him verbally and physically because they think his My Little Pony bag is for girls.

School officials have dealt poorly with the situation, to say the least: They reportedly blamed the mistreatment on Grayson and his bag—and told him not to wear it—rather than focusing their punitive action on the bullies. (They called the bag a “trigger for bullying.”)

The bag, it should go without saying, does not harm anyone. Nor does it harm anyone that a young boy happens to like toys or cartoons that have traditionally been marketed toward girls. The “triggers for bullying” here were small-mindedness, immaturity, ignorance and gender stereotyping. Not My Little Pony. By treating kids like Grayson as the problem, schools empower bullies and reinforce narrow and oppressive notions of gender that stifle young people’s creativity and their freedom to be themselves. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post and to learn how to support Bruce Grayson on Facebook.

Lake County on Map in Blue

A federal judge in Florida last week denied the Lake County School District’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a group of middle school students, who are seeking to form a gay-straight alliance with the same rights and privileges as other extra-curricular groups on campus. The proposed GSA, which existed briefly last year only to be banned again, would aim to reduce bullying and to provide a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and allied students.

As I’ve explained in a series of posts (listed below), the school district has devoted substantial time, energy and resources over the last year to prevent the GSA from forming, with at least two board members making some strange, inappropriate and/or inaccurate comments to me and others over email about the controversy. In its most recent court filings, moreover, the school board likened the GSA’s anti-bullying efforts to “sexual advocacy.” The board’s offensive arguments and misguided opposition to the GSA inflict harm on an already marginalized and vulnerable group of students entrusted to the district’s care.

While it’s certainly good news that a federal judge has refused to dismiss the case, the judge also declined the ACLU’s request for a preliminary injunction. In an upcoming post, I’ll explain what this means and take a critical look at the problematic aspects of the judge’s opinion and order, which the mainstream and LGBT media have generally not covered in any depth. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.

San Franisco City Hall Lit Up in Rainbow Colors

We’ve got great news out of California, where the state has determined that an effort to force a statewide referendum to repeal a new transgender student equality law, AB 1266, has fallen short. According to the California Secretary of State, opponents of the law failed to submit enough valid signatures to require a referendum.

As I’ll explore in a forthcoming update to an earlier post, the battle to protect AB 1266 is not over yet, as anti-transgender groups have (or at least think they have) a few more tricks up their sleeve. But the recent news is undeniably a major victory in the effort to preserve important protections against gender-identity discrimination in California schools. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.

What Do Bans on “Conversion Therapy” Actually Say?

Posted by MK on Feb 20, 2014 @ 11:35 am
Washington State Capitol Building

State legislators around the country have increasingly moved to protect youth from a set of dangerous and widely discredited practices known as “conversion therapy,” “reparative therapy,” or “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCEs). SOCEs aim to eliminate or reduce same-sex attractions; the purpose, in effect, is to “treat” or “cure” homosexuality (and bisexuality), even though same-sex orientation is not an illness.

Media coverage of legislation restricting SOCEs typically has not delved into the specifics of the laws and proposals, likely because many reporters (not to mention many readers) don’t have the patience to weed through the often-dense language of legislation. But advocates for LGBT youth and other opponents of SOCE may benefit from learning more about the details than the mainstream press coverage makes possible.

This post serves a resource and reference to fill some of the gaps in the mainstream reporting. It sets out, in an accessible format, excerpts of the key language from laws in New Jersey and California (which have already approved SOCE restrictions) as well as from bills proposed in Maryland and Washington State. You’ll also find links to the full text of the legislation, along with a brief summary of each bill or law’s history. (A future post will discuss other states’ proposals.) At the end, I’ve posted links to commentary and resources from around the web. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.

Confused Man with Question Marks Above Head

The gay-straight alliance saga continues in Florida’s Lake County.

In court papers filed in connection with the second lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU) against the Lake County School Board, the board continues its deeply hurtful battle to block the formation of a gay-straight alliance (GSA) as an officially recognized student club at a local middle school. The ACLU is correctly arguing that the school board is violating federal law, including the Equal Access Act and the Constitution.

The school district’s latest filings include several misleading, odd, offensive and just plain sloppy arguments, including an outlandish contention that the GSA, if allowed to form, would engage in “sexual” “advocacy.” Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.