There's not a day that goes by that I don't hear the words "gay" and "retarded" in school. In fact, I myself have said them in the past on several occasions while out at the pub or some other such social occasion.. But something clicked in me many months back and I realized that I just didn't want to say them anymore. If you sit back and think about it, if something is "gay" that means it's stupid. That's connecting stupidity to homosexuality. And if something is "retarded," that's belittling someone who has a disability. So I stopped saying them. Most of my students still do although they know I don't like it. I might throw them a look or make a quick comment which usually elicits a quick apology. They don't really mean much by it and, sadly, it is part of their slang these days.
They may not mean much by it but, people being who they are, will always take things further. What happens at that point? Well, this. I've had several requests to comment on this story and so here it is.
I'll start off by saying that the Anoka-Hennepin School District from the top down has done an awful job of handling this situation. Rather than focus on handling the bullying side of it and adopting a zero tolerance rule for such behavior (as is the case in both my district and my children's district), they chose to give a forum to people who talk of "radical homosexual agendas." (side question: Just what exactly is the "agenda that homosexual activists are seeking to advance?") This lead to the very justified entrance of GLBT and civil rights groups which, in turn, leads to a situation that is FUBAR. In playing the "Cult of Both Sides" game, they ended up losing.
What the school district should have done was tell the No Homo Promo crowd that, under no circumstances, will they tolerate people being treated poorly for any reason. As Howard Stern so eloquently explains at the end of this post, there should be zero tolerance for these people.
Now, to be fair, the situation isn't exactly as depicted as it was in the Rolling Stone article. We have this recent vote in which the policy was changed. And we have another look at the school district in which we see a different angle to what was originally reported. Some of what the school district officials say in this latter article ring true. The original article is distorted and the side of the story that isn't being told is seen in both of above links.
The fact of the matter is that teachers have far too much on their plate to talk as much about sex as all of the stories seem to illustrate. Other than health classes, there really isn't that much cause to talk about homosexuality and kids don't really bring it up-in a bullying environment or otherwise. There is some of random stuff here and there that goes on in most districts but, for the most part, this sort of thing isn't common. Essentially, the Anoka-Hennepin suicides (along with their recently reversed asinine policy) are an anomaly. Just like GSAs aren't "sex clubs," rampant bigotry leading gay kids to suicide is also an outlier.
There are far too many other mountains to conquer such as making sure students achieve state standards, perform well on the various standardized tests they need to take, and trying to inspire and motivate completely checked out parents to give at least one shit about the lives of their children. Tiptoeing around the issue of homosexuality isn't something that most educators have the time for these days. Hell, some days, the simple act of motivating a student to do a simple assignment on the Constitution is nearly impossible. Some are tired, some are ADHD, some are intervention, some are bored, and far too many simply don't care. Again, this all comes back to the parents of the Michael Jordan Generation expecting "The Help" to nanny their kids.
Still, it's tough not to get angry when you hear people like Barb Anderson, the founder of No Homo Promo, Rick Santorum, or Michele Bachmann, whose district is the home to Anoka-Hennepin schools, talk about homosexuals. They sound like fucking Nazis and I'm being kind in saying that. Part of me really struggles to say that this situation is an outlier and I shouldn't take it as the norm which is more or less the reason why I wrote what I did above...to convince myself. And the times they are indeed a-changin' as most younger people don't give two shits about whether someone is gay or not so I'd do better if I thought about that more often.
But 9 kids are fucking dead and people who think that it was their "gayness" that caused it are very, very dangerous people. Gay people used to be subjected to asylums and electro-shock therapy. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali said, "To be tolerant of intolerance is cowardice." Howard Stern expands on this point in this clip.
It's times like this when I have to have patience and remember that one of my biggest heroes is the non-violent Dr. King.
And that people like Barb Anderson, as history has always shown us, end up in a fucking bunker somewhere.