The long-running dispute over the right of students to form a gay-straight alliance (GSA) at Carver Middle School in Lake County, Florida, is headed to trial in federal court this week before a Nixon-appointed judge, the Honorable William Terrell Hodges. For some background on the saga, check out the short local news video and the list of earlier Youth Allies posts (below).
Nevertheless, I am inspired by the tenacity and courage of the students, their families, their attorneys, and their many other allies. I wish them much luck (though they shouldn’t need it) as they continue their work to overcome the misunderstandings, misinformation, unfounded fears, hostility, and bias that have run rampant in Lake County over this issue. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.
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:
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.
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.