Friday, August 14, 2009

We can't afford to ignore it.

A district not far from my school was just ordered to award $25,000 to a student as a settlement in a case of harrassment by a teacher. She had been making repeated comments about his perceived sexual orientation.

Most disturbing part:
Despite his complaints, and a resulting investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, the district recently rejected a local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) advocacy group's offer to help train staff in the district's recently revised policy on discussing sexual orientation. Until February district policy directed staff members to refrain from discussing homosexuality "as a normal, valid lifestyle" in health education classes.

"There are so many advocacy groups out there that you could have one for every social concern there is," said Michelle Langenfeld, associate superintendent of the district, which is the state's largest with more than 40,000 students. "What we've tried to do is create policy around a neutral stance, focusing on respect, appreciation of diversity, responsibility, integrity and compassion."
I could see some of my coworkers saying something just like that. We've had serious issues with students who are gay or perceived as gay at our school, and some of our staff members don't seem to think that it's a problem. The students need a lot of guidance, but what kind of message do they get when their teachers make comments about the way certain students dress? How is a student supposed to react when their teacher tells them they think gay students are receiving special treatment?

When I brought this up with my school leader yesterday, suggesting we take it seriously, she was offended at the suggestion that it could happen in our school.

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