Monday, December 03, 2007

A teachable moment in Kentucky

An anti-bias ordinance was recently passed in Jefferson County School Board in Kentucky. It was supposed to pass easily but ended up going through by one vote. And this is because of an interesting incident that took place during the hearing.

In speaking for the ordinance, Kat Crawford of Highland Middle School told of a situation where a person in her class said a derogatory comment about lgbts. According to Crawford, she talked to the young lady and told her how hurtful such comments could be. Possibly in attempting to prove her point further, Crawford came out to the young lady:

Crawford said she heard a girl tell other kids while on her way to scoliosis screening that "there are going to be lesbians working this," prompting snickers.

"I called the girl over and talked with her privately," Crawford told the board. "… I asked her what she said … and why she said it. I told her that I took offense to it (and said), 'How do you think that comment makes this lesbian feel?' "

Unfortunately, a board member used Crawford's story as an excuse to change her vote:

To me, that was the deal breaker," Linda Duncan said shortly after she voted against the policy.

"When I saw that this language could possibly protect those conversations, it was chilling to me. I could not support something (that) would put kids at risk," she said.

Duncan also said teachers "can't cross the line and discuss (their) sexual preference with a student -- it's just like religion, you can't take a moment and discuss it in school, it's not appropriate."

Unfortunately, others in the article also played the "teacher telling students their sexual preference" card. Luckily, there were folks who spoke to the media and told the difference between sexual orientation and sexual preference.

Personally, I am for the teacher. She had every right to do what she did. What if the student had said something negative about a certain religion that the teacher happened to be a believer in? It would have been totally appropriate for her to act in the same manner she did in this case.

But no one would be trying to accuse her of trying to "convert" the student, as they have in this case.

But I want to use the incident in order to play a game. I am going to pretend that I am Peter LaBarbera (I know, I am retching too) or some other anti-gay industry talking head. Taking that form, I am going turn this story into a series of talking points. After each talking point, I am going to point out the truth of the matter:

Anti-gay industry talking point 1 - The teacher was in the wrong because she talked about her sex life with the student.

Truth - No she did not. She did not mention anything regarding sexual activity to the student.

Anti-gay industry talking point 2 - The teacher embarrassed the student by calling her out simply because the student was giving her "deeply held religious beliefs" about homosexuality.

Truth - The student's comments had nothing to do with her religious beliefs.

Anti-gay industry talking point 3 - The student had a right to free speech.

Truth - The student had a right to free speech up to a point. Teachers and instructors have a responsibility to monitor the words of students in cases of profanity and derogatory language. The teacher was well within her rights to call the student out because the student's language was derogatory.

Anti-gay industry talking point 4 - The teacher should not be trying to force the student to accept homosexuality

Truth - The teacher was not trying to force the student to accept anything. She was simply telling the student that her language was hurtful, as was her responsibility as an instructor/teacher.

You see how the anti-gay industry works? That is why is it so important for us to know when incidents like this happen so that we can analyze how they distort the truth.