SAMMAMISH, WASHINGTON – When Eastside Catholic High School ended the employment of its vice principal for marrying his same-sex partner, it joined a growing list of Catholic institutions that have fired gay employees for marrying, announcing wedding plans or advocating too enthusiastically for gay marriage.
The terminations — more than 15 across the country in the last two years or so — continue, despite what appears to be a softening by Pope Francis on a number of contentious church issues, including homosexuality and gay unions.
Friday will be the last day at Eastside Catholic for vice principal and swim coach Mark Zmuda, 38, who joined the staff about a year and a half ago.
On Thursday afternoon the Sammamish school announced that Friday classes would be canceled and the school would close early for Christmas break due to forecast snow “and in light of the difficult day” the school had had after hundreds of students staged a sit-in and rally against the dismissal that drew widespread media attention.
Their protest spread via texts and Twitter to students at other area Catholic schools. Seattle Preparatory School students showed solidarity with a similar protest.
Mike Patterson, an attorney for the Archdiocese of Seattle and for Eastside Catholic, said the process that led to Zmuda’s departure began about two weeks ago.
“We became aware of his same-sex marriage through some other employees at the school who indicated that he had related that to them,” said Patterson.
Officials gave conflicting messages about the nature of Zmuda’s departure, insisting that he had resigned even as the school, in a letter to parents, stated that his employment had been terminated because he violated his contract.
“He resigned,” Patterson said Thursday afternoon. “I just spoke with him within the last two hours. He agrees he resigned.”
Zmuda did not return calls from The Times.
Whether Zmuda left voluntarily or was forced out, once he married another man his fate at the school was sealed.
While parochial schools and other Catholic institutions do hire gay people, many employees, particularly those in schools overseen by dioceses, sign a contract promising to uphold the teachings of the church as a condition of their employment. Same-sex unions violate church teachings.
“Mark’s same-sex marriage over the summer violated his employment contract with the school,” stated the letter to Eastside Catholic parents.
In recognition of their constitutional rights, faith-based employers generally are afforded greater latitude than secular employers in complying with anti-discrimination laws.
Eastside Catholic president Sister Mary Tracy said she discussed Zmuda’s case in person with Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain within the last two weeks and they had what she described as a collaborative conversation.
Sartain didn’t give her an explicit order to fire Zmuda, Tracy said. Rather, “We were directed to comply with the teachings of the church.”
“The Archdiocese works through me as the head of the school,” Tracy said. “It was clear that this is the teaching of the church. I know what we need to do.”
Patterson said he and Tracy met with Zmuda in a cordial meeting on Tuesday and everyone understood that Zmuda could no longer work at Eastside Catholic.
“It was just one of those situations where he knew … that he needed to comport with the [teachings] of the church, and his same-sex marriage was not comporting with that,” Patterson said.
Patterson said Zmuda’s same-sex marriage, not the fact that he is gay, is the reason he cannot work for the school.
“He’s a great administrator,” Patterson said.
“We fully support him. We’re going to give him glowing reference letters, all that sort of thing. But Eastside Catholic doesn’t have the power to change that law,” Patterson said, referring to church teachings.
Tracy said she informed the school staff of Zmuda’s termination at a regularly scheduled faculty meeting Thursday morning and word spread quickly among students.
Senior Christian Leider, 18, said he found out on Twitter.
“The students were pretty upset about that so we all came together and rebelled against it,” he said. “Once one person found out it went on Twitter and then everyone found out.”
He and others started rounding up students for a sit-in at the school commons area around 9 a.m.
He said the students then hiked outside to the turnoff for the street that winds up a hill to the campus to show their support for Zmuda to the media gathered there.
“We did not know he was gay before today,” Leider said. “He’s always looking out for the best in everyone and he always wants everyone to do their best.”
Sophia Cerino, a freshman at Eastside Catholic, said most students support the rights of gays to marry.
“Just because I’m Catholic doesn’t mean I need to believe every rule the church has,” Cerino said. “We think the rule over gay marriage is totally unfair. Everyone seems to think the same thing — that we should all be treated equal.”
When the students were gathered on the street, she said, Zmuda came to talk to them about what had happened.
“He told us he had gotten fired because he is gay and married. He told us to grow up, get a job and find true love. He was crying and told us what we were doing meant a lot to him.”
According to the school’s website, Zmuda previously worked at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and has held a variety of teaching and administrative positions for the last 13 years.
He received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., and a Master of Education degree in educational leadership and policy studies with principal certification from the University of Texas.
A national gay-rights group condemned his termination.
“At a moment when Pope Francis is urging the Catholic hierarchy to put aside judgment … it’s shameful that this school and others are ignoring that hopeful message in favor of explicit and baseless discrimination,” said Charles Joughin, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign.
Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest, author and former editor of America, a weekly Catholic magazine, said Catholic institutions tend to ignore an employee’s sexual orientation and activities as long as those activities are not widely known.
But entering into a same-sex marriage, he said, crosses the line.
“Catholic institutions have been following ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ long before the U.S. miliary was,” he said.
In the 1950s and 1960s, he said, it wasn’t unheard-of for people employed by the church to be fired if they divorced and then remarried.
“We are seeing greater acceptance (of gay marriage) in American society — among young people and among a majority of Catholics,” Reese said.
“The church isn’t going to be celebrating gay marriage, but eventually people aren’t going to be fired for this kind of thing.”
from The Seattle Times
Archive for the ‘Gay School’ Category
SAMMAMISH, WASHINGTON – When Eastside Catholic High School ended the employment of its vice principal for marrying his same-sex partner, it joined a growing list of Catholic institutions that have fired gay employees for marrying, announcing wedding plans or advocating too enthusiastically for gay marriage.
NEW YORK – A married heterosexual dad says he was booted from his coaching job at a prestigious Upper West Side private school because he didn’t play for the other team.
In papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Gregory Kenney, 50, says he was targeted for termination from the Trinity School because his lesbian supervisor was biased against straight family men.
Kenney said he’d “enjoyed a positive relationship with administrators, staff and fellow teachers” at the West 91st St. school for well over a decade – until he was “placed under the supervision and leadership of a homosexual, single female administrator with no children.”
That administrator, Pat Krieger, piled extra work on Kenney to make it impossible for him to spend time with his wife and kids, the suit says.
Krieger demanded he “coach soccer, basketball and golf, knowing that those sports required nights, weekends, summer commitments and holidays, and that it would interfere with plaintiff’s responsibilities to his wife and young children,” the suit says.
“I love the school. I love my job. I enjoyed the kids I was with and the classes I taught, but I have a wife and family. I’m not 16,” Kenney told the Daily News.
But while his contract only called for him to work two of three school seasons, Krieger insisted he work all three, the suit says.
When he complained about the additional workload, Krieger “reprimanded” him and told him “she did not care about his family obligations and ‘we all make choices,’” the suit says.
But when a younger, single female teacher complained about the same issue, Krieger accommodated her, the suit says.
It wasn’t the only time – Kenney said he was “continuously berated and reprimanded” by Krieger and another administrator, who would “routinely afford preferential treatment to the younger, single female teacher with no children.”
Krieger then upped the ante by making false allegations against Kenney in a bid to get him canned, the suit says.
She accused him of illegally subletting his Trinity Tower apartment – a prime perk for teachers at the $38,995-a-year school – and having left students unsupervised, the suit says.
“It was very stressful and difficult,” Kenney said.
He was canned as a result of the bogus allegations in June of 2012, the suit says.
The filing says Krieger has gone on to can other married coaches with kids, but doesn’t offer any details of the firings.
Kenney said he was “subsequently replaced by a homosexual female for his teaching duties, and a younger male without children to take over coaching of the boys soccer and basketball teams.”
The filing says that Kenney, who lives in Long Island with his gym teacher wife and three kids, had complained to school officials about the way he was being treated, and they ignored him.
“It’s an outrage,” said his lawyer, Steve Morelli. “He decided not to take it sitting down. It’s hard to find another position in this field when you’re 50-years-old.”
Trinity spokesman Kevin Ramsey said school officials would have no comment on the lawsuit because they haven’t seen it yet, but he added, the school has strict policies against discrimination for its employment, admission, athletic and scholarship practices.
Founded in 1709, Trinity is considered one of the top prep schools in the country. Famous alumni include tennis great John McEnroe, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Troma Films head Lloyd Kaufman.
from The New York Daily News
WASHINGTON – Students in same-sex marriages will be treated the same as their straight married classmates when it comes to federal college loan applications, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Friday in a shift that reflects this year’s Supreme Court ruling that broadened gay rights.
“We must continue to ensure that every single American is treated equally in the eyes of the law, and this important guidance for students is another step forward in that effort,” Duncan said in a statement.
The Education Department also revised its required Free Application for Federal Student Aid to reflect more inclusive language about students and their parents. The department said it would recognize a student – and parents – as legally married if the couple was legally married in a state that permits same-sex marriages.
The new application forms do not distinguish between gay or straight marriages.
The department also said students’ eligibility for federal aid would be the same in all 50 states, regardless of where the student attends school.
For instance, a same-sex couple from Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal, would be treated the same as a straight couple if one or both applied for a federal student loan to attend a school in one of the 34 states that do not permit gay marriage. The same standards would apply to parents in same-sex marriages.
“As students fill out their FAFSA this coming year, I’m thrilled they’ll be able to do so in a way that is more fair and just,” Duncan said, using the financial aid application’s acronym.
Before the Supreme Court ruled this summer, the Education Department was bound by the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited all federal agencies from recognizing same-sex marriages. The Clinton-era law defined marriage as between one and one woman and hurt many applicants in same-sex marriages.
Friday’s move is the latest from the Education Department to be more helpful to students in same-sex marriages or with married gay parents.
Even before the ruling, Duncan instructed the department to collect information on both of the student’s legal parents, regardless of marital status. That meant children being raised by unmarried couples – regardless of sexual orientation – would have both adults’ incomes factored into financial aid eligibility.
That was an effort to reflect that same-sex couples share financial responsibilities for children, even if their state does not sanction gay marriages.
from The Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT – About 40 protestors marched in the middle of downtown streets and to police headquarters Tuesday afternoon to demand answers and accountability for the death of Yale professor Samuel See while in lockup at the Union Avenue Detention Center.
The multi-faceted protest brought together friends, family members and other supporters of See to remember his legacy and to demand answers about his death while in the custody of state judicial marshals.
“I think it’s important to realize the political dimensions of his death,” said Nathan Brown, an assistant professor of English at the University of California at Davis who went to school with See. “I think it’s not OK to live in a society where someone in a kind of fragile state that Sam seemed to be in is thrown in jail and left to die.”
See, 34, was found unresponsive in his cell at the Union Avenue Detention Facility, according to police spokesman Officer David Hartman. See was brought to the detention center about 9:10 p.m. Nov. 23 and was found unresponsive about 6 a.m. the next day, said Rhonda Stearley-Hebert, spokeswoman for the state Judicial Branch.
The Judicial Branch operates and staffs the detention center.
See was arrested and charged with violation of a protective order, second-degree threatening and interfering with police. The incident stemmed from a complaint of a domestic dispute between See and his husband, Sunder Gangliner, 32. The two had protective orders placed on them.
New Haven police are conducting both a general and internal investigation into See’s death. The state Judicial Branch is also conducting an internal review into whether marshals followed applicable policy and procedures, said Stearley-Hebert.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled out trauma as a cause of death, according to officials. See’s death is not believed to be a suicide.
Police Chief Dean Esserman said the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner gave him an estimate of “several weeks” until they are fully done with an autopsy and report. That aspect of the investigation is out of the department’s control.
“I respect and understand the concerns expressed,” Esserman said of the march Tuesday. “We do not take our responsibilities here lightly.”
He again expressed his condolences to the family and community for the loss of See and took full responsibility for the late public notification of his death.
“I really understand the delays are frustrating,” he said about the completion of a full investigation. “They are to me as well.”
The protestors began marching on sidewalks and then switched to the middle of streets. They took a path that led them from City Hall to See’s office on High Street and eventually ended at police headquarters on Union Avenue.
Downtown police district manager Sgt. Tammi Means tried to ask protestors about the general nature of the march, but wasn’t met with answers. They didn’t have a permit for the event, she said. A police supervisor SUV and a police cruiser closely followed the protestors, but didn’t interfere with the march.
Protestors led by Brown and others yelled various chants including:
“What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.”
“Justice for Same See.”
“An end to police brutality.”
“Cops are a hate crime.”
A woman, who identified herself as See’s sister, but declined to give her name, said she was touched by the turnout of people who came to march.
“I called the police to help my brother and he was arrested for no reason,” she said.
Brown referenced the 2012 death of Monique Hayes while in lockup at the Union Avenue Detention Facility, the facility where See was found dead. The Office of the Medical Examiner listed the cause of death as hanging and ruled it as suicide. The family questioned that finding.
Brown said he is skeptical of the police account that See fell during a struggle, which caused See to sustain a cut above his eye.
“The police everywhere in the United States are brutal,” he said. “The police are violent, they don’t keep people safe, they hurt people and they especially hurt them when they are minorities, when they are gay and it’s a huge social problem people need to recognize.”
BENSALEM, PENNSYLVANIA - An openly gay teacher at a Pennsylvania Catholic school was fired after applying for a same-sex marriage license.
Michael Griffin, a teacher at Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, Pa., for 12 years, has been with his partner for the same number of years. On Friday the Mount Laurel, N.J., resident applied for a same-sex marriage license and was fired on the same day, he told the Daily News Monday.
“After 12 years together I was excited to finally be able to marry my partner. Because of that, I was fired,” he said in a Facebook post. “I feel hurt, saddened, betrayed and except for this post, am at a loss for words.”
Griffin, an alumnus of the Catholic school, said administrators and fellow faculty knew he was gay and in fact the school on occasion invited his partner Vincent Giannetto to school events. He said he didn’t discuss his sexuality with students though he admits a few “could probably put two and two together.”
The couple had a civil union in 2008 and when gay marriage became law in New Jersey in October they decided to get married.
There were no classes at the school Friday but Griffin, who taught Spanish and French, was required to arrive at 9 a.m. for in-service training. He said he sent an email saying he might be late because he was applying for the license in the morning.
When he arrived to school he said he was blindsided.
“I was told if I go through with (getting married) I would be fired immediately,” he said. “When I sent (that email) I didn’t foresee any of this happening.”
The school’s headmaster, Fr. James McCloskey, did not return an interview request from The News but told TV Station NBC10 in Philadelphia that Griffin violated his contract and the school’s policy by obtaining the license.
“Unfortunately, this decision contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the Church as a condition of their employment,” he told NBC10 in a statement. “In discussion with Mr. Griffin, he acknowledged that he was aware of this provision, yet he said that he intended to go ahead with the ceremony. Regretfully, we informed Mr. Griffin that we have no choice but to terminate his contract effective immediately.”
McCloskey also told the station “although the school welcomes teachers from other denominations and recognizes their rights to religious freedom, as employees of a Catholic institution, all teachers are expected to uphold lifestyles compatible with the moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.”
Griffin said he was aware of his responsibility under the school’s teacher’s handbook but is confused why he would be fired now when the school knew of his sexuality for more than a decade. He added a school administrator also attended the ceremony he and Giannetto had when they got their civil union.
“I know I’m a Catholic school teacher,” he said. “I wasn’t advocating anything to students.”
Griffin said he attended Catholic school his entire life including college and though he considers himself a spiritual person he has stopped attending mass because of negative sermons about homosexuality.
The mission for Holy Ghost’s motto is “One Heart and One Mind,” according to the school’s website. That includes “the total educational experience: diversity in thought, openness to new possibilities, impetus for change and service to the poor in the spirit of the Gospel.”
Griffin said he had received a lot of support from alumni, staff, students and their parents since the firing. The 35 year-old said he still supports the school and believes in its mission which he said he made part of his personal life philosophy. He said he felt the openness and diversity in thought applied to his tenure there.
“I still believe in that even though the school does not want me there,” he said.
from The New York Daily News
San Diego State University will offer a graduate certificate in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies next fall, officials said Monday.
The advanced certificate is designed to increase knowledge of sexual and gender identity and an understanding of cultural, historical, ethnic and racial aspects of sexuality.
Courses in disciplines such as English, history, women’s studies and religious studies will focus on “emerging subcultures and identities from a global perspective.”
The program requires a minimum of 12 units of approved graduate courses and will include community service, internships and study abroad opportunities. Many post-graduate students interested in LGBT issues, students conducting research and those seeking jobs in LBGT organizations have already expressed interest, officials said.
“In the last few years, dozens of students across all disciplines have created their own LGBT-themed master’s theses or culminating exams,” Esther Rothblum, a professor of women’s studies and advisor of the program, said in a statement. “We saw a real need to build a program to pull all of the graduate-level classes that explore LGBT issues together into one place.”
The San Diego State program is one of a handful of similar graduate programs in the nation.
UC Berkeley has a “designated emphasis” in LGBT studies, and San Francisco State offers a master’s degree in human sexuality studies, San Diego State spokeswoman Beth Downing Chee said.
But the San Diego campus has been offering classes in gay and lesbian studies since the 1970s, and in 2011 it became the first California university to offer a major in the subject.
“Diversity is a cornerstone of a well-rounded education, and this program provides an opportunity for graduate students to gain a deeper understanding of diversity through the critical issues brought forth in LGBT studies,” San Diego State Provost Nancy Marlin said.
from The Los Angeles Times
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – A fraternity chapter at Morgan State accused of discriminating against a student because he is gay has been placed on probation until fall 2015, university officials said Tuesday.
In late October, senior Brian Stewart filed a formal complaint with the university alleging that the chapter rejected him because he is gay, offering derogatory social media messages he said were sent between fraternity members as proof.
Morgan spokesman Jarrett Carter Sr. said a disciplinary panel investigating the complaint found that the Alpha Iota chapter violated university policies on discrimination. The probation means that Morgan’s chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity cannot register as an official organization, participate in university-sponsored events or host events on or off campus.
“It’s very rare to get a complaint like this from students against other students,” Carter said. “It’s not something that the university tolerates or takes lightly.”
Stewart, 20, could not be reached for comment. Attempts to reach Morgan fraternity members as well as the national fraternity were unsuccessful.
Stewart, a former White House intern, has said that he dreamed of joining the fraternity because his mentor had been a member and was devastated when someone sent him the messages, which used a slur to describe his sexual orientation.
Carter said the disciplinary panel, made up of students, faculty and staff, reached its decision last week. Three students in the fraternity also faced judicial review, but Carter declined to comment on whether they had received discipline as individuals.
Since word broke on campus about Stewart’s complaint, students at Morgan have held two campus-wide discussions about discrimination against gay people, drawing hundreds of participants.
“It’s all a part of something we’re going to continue to do just to make clear our expectations about tolerance and respect and support for one another,” Carter said. “Overall, the students have been telling us that this is very surprising and out of the ordinary.”
Stewart said in October that he thought Kappa Alpha Psi members would be impressed by his academic accomplishments, but he was rejected the day after his interview.
He said at the time that while he was no longer interested in joining the fraternity, he filed a complaint because he wanted to raise awareness.
“I didn’t know I was going to have no control — that my interview meant nothing, my achievements meant nothing, because they had already made up their minds,” Stewart said.
from The Baltimore Sun
Student Says Fraternity Rejected Him For Being Gay
DELTA, COLORADO - Residents of Delta County have expressed concern over recent statements made in public by Delta County School Board member, Katherine Svenson. At the October meeting she commented on rights of transgender students.
NewsChannel 5 requested a recorded tape of the meeting to verify what was said, and later sat down with Svenson and district officials.
Like many other school board districts around the country, they’re dealing with certain issues for the first time.
“One of the board members said that she had gotten comments from my district, that the people are very unhappy with me commenting, they’re very abashed about what I said,” Svenson said.
Svenson passed out an issue of the Education Reporter during the October meeting, and said:
“I would like to pass out something that shows people what is going on in the rest of the country. Massachusetts and California have passed laws relating to calling a student, irrespective of his biological gender, letting him perform as the gender he thinks he is, or she is.
I just want to emphasize, not in this district. Not until the plumbing’s changed. There would have to be castration in order to pass something like that around here.”
She stands firmly by her statements.
“I don’t have a problem if some boys think they are girls, I’m just saying as long as they can impregnate a woman, they’re not going to go in girls locker-room,” said Svenson. She says she brought the issue up in order for other board members to be aware of the issues that could be coming to Colorado very soon.
The article in the Education Reporter discusses a new law passed in California, which allows students to use whatever bathroom they wish based on their self-identified rather than biological gender.
While district officials say they respect Svenson’s opinion, they don’t necessarily agree with it.
NewsChannel 5 asked assistant superintendent Kurt Clay about the comments made about castration and whether or not that is something the district would consider. Clay said, “Absolutely not, I meant that’s an opinion of hers.”
Officials adopted a policy in June stating discrimination against any student is prohibited.
“We truly believe in Delta County School District, that every student has different needs, and that we are here to address those individual needs,” said Clay.
While the two sides disagree, they say they both ultimately want what’s best for the students.
Anyone with questions or concerns is encouraged to contact the district or the board members themselves.
SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA – The teacher who helped high schoolers blow the whistle on administrators’ treatment of gay students says she was fired in retaliation and is suing to get her job back.
Last fall, English teacher Julia Frost helped members of Sultana High School’s Gay Straight Alliance club fight back against what she and students saw as a pattern of discrimination against gay students and club members by teachers and administrators. The students ultimately successfully sought the aid the ACLU of Southern California.
“My job is to help defend and teach my kids, and that’s what I did,” she said Monday.
But weeks before the ACLU called Hesperia Unified out in March, Frost was told her contract wouldn’t be renewed for the 2013-14 school year.
Frost’s legal team — Los Angeles-based Lambda Legal and Pasadena-based Traber and Voorhees — plans to sue the district in San Bernardino Superior Court today, alleging nine claims of harassment and discrimination. Her lawyers say the district failed to renew her contract in retaliation for helping students call attention to the treatment of gay and lesbian students on campus.
Although Hesperia Unified denied a climate hostile to gay and lesbian students existed at the school, the ACLU and Hesperia Unified agreed in August to changes to district policy and training procedures. But Frost was left out in the cold, a victim, she believes, of retaliation after she helped her students protest their treatment.
“This is the other shoe dropping, if you will,” attorney Bert Voorhees said.
Frost believes her treatment by administrators is part of the same pattern of behavior that her students complained about.
“All I want to do is teach and make a difference,” she said. “It’s surreal, me sitting here, not teaching for the first time in 16 years.”
Frost started at Sultana in 2011-12 school year and was asked to be a co-sponsor of the school’s popular GSA club.
“Almost immediately, I was singled out,” she said. “I was invited to meetings with administrators, asking about activities.”
Frost was summoned to meetings with administrators without the other teachers who oversaw the club. The fact that she was a lesbian was brought up in the very first one by Principal Larry Bird, she said.
“The only thing I can surmise, because it was just me and nobody else, was it was just because of my sexual orientation?” Frost said.
Students continued to be frustrated by administrators’ and teachers’ treatment of gay students. Things got dramatically worse in fall 2012, after students chose a lesbian homecoming queen who wore a suit, not a dress, to homecoming, she said.
“It was almost like a tornado,” Frost said. “It became just a toxic environment with kids as a whole.”
Frost helped students file formal complaints with the district about slurs and other discriminatory behavior by teachers and administrators at the school.
“These were comments made by adults,” Frost said. “It’s so much more hurtful” than comments made by students.
Sultana’s 2,036 students are largely supportive of gays and lesbians, according to her, and students were baffled by the lack of response to their complaints.
“They trust the adults in their life to do the right thing,” she said.
Members of the Sultana GSA attended an ACLU workshop at the 2012 Models of Pride conference at the University of Southern California, which focused on the concerns of LGBT youth under age 24. Following their return to campus, the students reached out to the organization with Frost’s help.
Her support of the students was noticed by administrators.
In February, Principal Larry Bird told her that her contract would not be renewed for the coming school year, she said. By law, public school districts must inform teachers before March 15 if their services will not be needed in the coming school year.
“I was stunned, because I had fantastic teacher evaluations” five times, until after the ACLU news broke, Frost said. That sixth review was highly critical, she said.
According to district officials, Hesperia Unified did not issue pink slips to any other teachers this year.
Although it’s legal in California to fire an un-tenured teacher without cause, Lambda Legal attorney Jennifer Pizer said, Frost was let go as a retaliatory move — which is illegal.
“This is consistent with the treatment of their (gay) employees and their students,” Pizer said.
Hesperia Unified would not comment Monday on the reason Frost’s contract was not renewed.
“It’s confidential and we can’t really say anything at this point,” Superintendent David McLaughlin said.
As for Frost, she wants to get back in to the classroom.
“I just want to teach,” she said. “I love the kids in the High Desert; they’re amazing. They deserve role models like them.”
from The Sun
NEW YORK – A Catholic high School has postponed a talk by a controversial priest who encourages teens to “pray away the gay” — but the president of the Bronx school defied angry gay groups by saying the lecturer will be invited back.
Father Donald Timone was scheduled to speak Tuesday night at Cardinal Spellman High School about the Catholic group called Courage — which encourages teens “struggling with same-sex attraction” to lead chaste lives.
After outrage by lesbian and gay alumni, and some staffers, school President Trevor Nicholls scrubbed the event — but this battle is not over.
“The idea that this is the end of the matter is incorrect,” Father Nicholls said.
Nicholls added that Timone would likely be invited back after the school’s board of trustees weighs in — a formality.
Opponents of Timone — who say he treats homosexuals like addicts in a 12-step program — will continue their fight, too.
“It’s hard enough being a teenager,” said Spellman grad Clinton Leupp. “I look back at all of the suffering I did. All of the bullying. And something like this just fosters that environment.”
Leupp, better known by his drag persona Miss Coco Peru, used social media to draw attention to the Timone lecture, causing its cancelation, however temporary.
But he is still not satisfied.
The 48-year-old has made a video, in full Coco mode, where he sings Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” and encourages teens to be themselves.
“I just want those kids to know that there is a big beautiful world out there and that they’re not alone,” Leupp said.
The cancellation did little to appease some staffers, who cited new Pope Francis’ attempt to get church leaders to move beyond divisive issues such as gay marriage, homosexuality and abortion.
“A lot of people are really pissed off (at the school for hosting Timone),” said one employee who asked to remain anonymous. “With the Pope urging people to back off on this issue the whole thing seems a little out of place.”
The worker also worried that controversial issues would undermine fundraising.
“If the alumni find this to be something that they don’t agree with it could affect the school,” the employee said.”
Still gay groups offered an olive branch to the school, urging Nichols to have a balanced discussion of homosexuality.
“We desire to open a constructive dialogue with the school to talk about LGBTQ issues in ways that won’t cause harm,” Tym Moss, president of the Bronx LGBTQ Center, said in a statement issued after the postponement.
from The New York Daily News
GARNETT, KANSAS – A 13-year-old Kansas eighth-grader says he was suspended from school on Wednesday because he refused to take off his Vera Bradley purse.
His furious mother says it is discrimination because girls are allowed to have purses with no repercussions.
“I don’t think everyone should be treated differently,” Skyler Davis said Wednesday. “Everyone should have the same privileges.”
Anderson County School District Superintendent Don Blome said Thursday that he could not discuss the specific case because of privacy concerns. However, he said all students, whether female or male, are prevented from having bags, purses, satchels and backpacks in the core classrooms like English and math. The bags must be stored in lockers during class time, he said.
“We strive to make sure we treat every kid alike and there are classroom rules we expect kids to follow,” he told KCTV5 on Thursday. “They can bring (bags and purses) to school. There’s no policy against that. But the classroom rules are that they can’t bring it to the classroom.”
Skyler is a student at Anderson County Senior-Junior School. He said he has been carrying the colorful fabric Vera Bradley bag over his shoulder for some time with no issues.
“It expresses myself and I think everyone else can wear it, so I wear it as well,” Skyler told KCTV5′s Dave Jordan.
He was summoned to Assistant Principal Don Hillard’s office after he wouldn’t take it off.
“I went to the office and I refused to take it off, and they suspended me,” the teen explained.
School personnel then called his mother, Leslie Willis, to come get her son.
“I was a little furious, and I called the school [and spoke to Hillard] to reverify the story, and yeah, he refused to take off his Vera Bradley bag, nothing more to it,” Willis said.
She said she reviewed the student handbook but did not see a mention to bags or purses. She questions the suspension and the timing.
“Skyler has been going to school since August with that same Vera Bradley bag on, hasn’t taken it off. What is the problem?” she asked.
In response to Blome’s comments Thursday, Willis told KCTV5 that the bag rule should be a formal part of the student handbook so that there is no confusion.
She said she supports her son and his choices. She said if he wants to carry a Vera Bradley purse or any other type of bag that he should be able to do so without being punished.
In an email, she said that her son went back to school at 1:30 p.m. Thursday with the bag in tow.
“He was pulled into an office, behind closed doors to tell him that he was never suspended for refusing to take off his purse, he got suspended for foul language,” she wrote. “That’s not the story that Mr. Hillard told me yesterday. Skyler is only 13 years old. He’s just a child. And if this isn’t bullying, I don’t know what is.”
The family appreciates the outpouring of support that they have received from across the country.
“I think it is pretty cool that Skyler is making a stand and it’s causing somebody to listen,” she said.
Dakota Haight said the situation with his brother is unfair.
“I’ve seen girls wear short shorts. Why don’t they get kicked out? But then he gets kicked out for a purse? That doesn’t make sense. It’s not right,” Haight said.
But Blome insists that the district does not discriminate based on gender.
“We are not going out there to discriminate against anybody,” he said.
He said he has been superintendent for six years and that even before his arrival that junior high students couldn’t bring bags into the core classes.
“That’s been a long-standing rule,” he said, adding he believes it dates back at least 10 years.
He explained that if a student refused to abide by the rule that a teacher would send the student to the office. If the student again refused to comply, then Blome said the student could be suspended.
Willis said her son was criticized by school personnel on Thursday for going public.
“Skyler can speak freely about what’s bothering him. I have taught him this. Now the school is upset because he spoke out,” she wrote.
Blome said he hasn’t spoken with the teen or his mother. He said he didn’t know whether any staff member would have criticized the student for speaking publicly, but said the district certainly cannot stop the student or his mother from doing so.
The district has mailed to Willis a formal notification of the disciplinary action and the reasoning behind it. Blome said he cannot release it to KCTV5 without Willis’ permission.
Willis said she was told that the suspension wouldn’t be lifted until Skyler stops wearing the purse, which he had said on Wednesday that he wouldn’t do.
But with some time to reflect, the teen is unlikely to dig in his heels forever.
“We’re going to have to find some compromise in this,” his mother said. She didn’t detail what that could be.
Two stores that sell Vera Bradley purses have contacted KCTV5 to offer products to Skyler. Word of the story has reached the purse maker.
“Vera Bradley creates products that allow all of us to express our individual style. We encourage self-expression through color and design,” the company said in a statement issued to KCTV5 when asked about Skyler’s situation.
FRESNO, CALIFORNIA – A sixth-grade teacher sodomized a boy and took pornographic photos of him during sleepovers at the teacher’s house, the boy and his mother claim in court.
The boy, Minor S., and his Mother M. sued David Blancas, Monson-Sultana Joint Union Elementary School District and the Tulare County Board of Education, in Superior Court.
Minor S. claims that Blancas forced him “to give and receive anal sex without protection” when S. was 11.
Blancas was arrested after another boy claimed that Blancas had forced him into “hundreds of instances of forced oral sex, including one instance on a school bus late at night at a school function,” according to the lawsuit.
Minor S.’s plight began when he entered Blancas’ sixth-grade class in 2010 at Monson-Sultana School in Orosi. S. joined the basketball team, which increased his contact with Blancas, who was also the athletic director, according to the complaint.
Blancas offered S. a ride home during the first month of that academic year, and soon was picking him up from home and driving him to school, according to the complaint.
“Plaintiff’s mother was a single parent and was not opposed to defendant Blancas serving as a male role model for plaintiff, especially given the teacher-student, and coach-player relationship that developed,” the complaint states.
The mother says that during an argument with her son, she called Blancas, “given the role-model relationship between her son and defendant Blancas, to see if he could help.”
Blancas offered to bring the boy to his house to play with his dogs. At Blancas’ house, they watched movies until S. fell asleep on the couch. Blancas invited him over again the next weekend to “sleep over,” the mother says in the complaint.
“Plaintiff contends they went back to defendant’s house to watch movies and play video games. While they watched movies, defendant made plaintiff lie on the couch between defendant’s legs. Plaintiff fell asleep and awoke to the feeling of defendant’s hands resting on plaintiff’s chest underneath his shirt. Plaintiff felt uncomfortable at the time but did not say anything because he was scared and given the fact that defendant Blancas was his sixth grade teacher.
“Plaintiff contends in the weeks following, the inappropriate conduct continued to escalate where defendant would pull plaintiff’s pants down while plaintiff was sleeping and take pictures of his penis, grab and stroke plaintiff’s penis, and force plaintiff to touch defendant Blancas’ penis. Shortly thereafter, defendant performed oral sex on plaintiff and forced plaintiff to give and receive anal sex without protection,” the lawsuit states.
Minor S. also claims that Blancas made him “remove his clothing and perform sexual acts while being photographed.”
The sexual abuse continued until March 2012, when Blancas was arrested after another victim came forward, alleging that Blancas had sexually abused him from 2000 until 2003, according to the complaint.
A police search of Blancas’ home revealed “numerous CDs with digital photographs of plaintiff in various stages of undress, performing sexual acts,” according to the lawsuit.
Minor S. and his mother claim that the Monson-Sultana School and Tulare County Board of Education “should have known about defendant Blancas’ sexual abuse of an underage Monson-Sultana student between 2000 and 2003, where on at least one occasion, defendant Blancas had oral sex with the student on a school bus after a school function. Despite such knowledge, defendants ignored and failed to investigate or remedy defendant Blancas’ conduct in any way, thereby placing students at risk of harm.”
The plaintiffs seek punitive damages for assault, battery, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring.
from Courthouse News
NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TEXAS — Isaiah Smith is no stranger to crusades.
He’s spoken out on gay rights before, last year appearing before the Keller City Council on the need for an anti-discrimination ordinance.
But when the 18-year-old Birdville High School senior spoke out for gay rights in class this week after he said he was bullied — ripping apart his Bible to make a point — it earned him a three-day suspension.
Smith said the suspension is unfair and that he intends to sue the district to remove the disciplinary action from his record. An attorney from the American Humanist Association has taken on his case for free.
“At my high school, some kids like to say that being gay is a sin and that you can’t be gay and Christian,” Smith said. “I wanted to bring my Bible to school and interpret the books of Leviticus and Romans, because they are often used to bully gay people.”
Mark Thomas, a spokesman for the Birdville School District initially said that, while federal law prevents him from talking specifically about what happened, any student who disrupts the learning environment will be disciplined according to the BISD Student Code of Conduct.
But later Thomas added that Smith’s suspension had nothing to do with the passages in the Bible but with the student’s behavior.
Thomas said that the district, after hearing about Smith’s claims that he was being bullied, has initiated an inquiry into his claims.
“I can assure you that the district investigates and addresses all reports of bullying that it receives,” Thomas said.
The incident began Monday when Smith said he brought his Bible to his first-period Spanish class after earlier being bullied for his sexual orientation.
He described how a substitute teacher was overseeing the class that day when students began taunting him about how he was going to hell.
Smith said he then started tearing out pages from the Book of Leviticus explaining that when he is bullied, other students often quote Leviticus.
“I think the Bible was a tool for Christians to use to guide them spiritually, emotionally and mentally,” he said.
Smith described how Vice Principal Glenn Serviente told him he could bring his Bible to school, but could not rip it apart in class. Serviente, when contacted by the Star-Telegram, referred all questions to Thomas.
Smith said he carried around his ripped Bible the remainder of the day and Tuesday without incident, but on Wednesday was called to Serviente’s office and reprimanded.
Smith said the assistant principal asked him how Muslims would feel if someone ripped the Quran. Smith responded they would not like it but that he tore up his own Bible, not something belonging to someone else.
Smith said he was told of his suspension, and then described how Serviente “reached around” and confiscated the ripped Bible and put it in his desk.
Smith provided his discipline slip to the Star-Telegram. It stated that the nature of the problem was “distraction and disruption in class by tearing up Bible in class.”
Bill Burgess, an attorney from the Washington, D.C, organization American Humanist Association wrote in an Oct. 31 letter that he wants the Birdville district to expunge Smith’s record of his suspension.
He contends the district is violating Smith’s First Amendment rights.
“Isaiah’s Bible was not the source of disruption, the bullying was. Instead of reprimanding the bullies, the school punished Isaiah for offering an alternative viewpoint on the Bible,” he wrote.
Smith is to return to class Monday, according to his suspension slip.
from The Star-Telegram
NEW YORK – A prestigious Catholic high school booted a Bronx senior for being gay, the girl claims in a lawsuit.
Amanda Acevedo, 17, says in court papers that a homophobic administrator at Preston HS in Throggs Neck took exception to her bringing a girl as a date to a school dance and embarked on a two-year campaign of discrimination that culminated in her expulsion in September.
“Such a disgraceful act is proof positive of the fact that they got rid of my daughter because of her sexual orientation,” Acevedo’s dad, John, charges in the suit, filed against the private all-girls school in Bronx Supreme Court last month.
“No other reason makes sense. Preston High gains nothing by expelling a traumatized gay child — except a sick sense of pleasure at getting rid of a gay child.”
Dean Joseph De Bona began targeting Amanda when she came to her sophomore-year dance with a girl on her arm, the suit says.
Although she had permission to bring the date, Amanda says, De Bona pulled them aside at the end of the event, separated them and grilled Amanda, asking how they met, where the girl went to school, whether the two were “more than just friends” and warning against “any funny business.”
John Acevedo says the inquiries were inappropriate.
“They’re alone in the room talking about her sexuality? Saying, ‘Let’s keep this between us because we don’t want any funny business’? There’s nothing funny about it,” the dad told The Post.
De Bona’s grilling of Amanda “deserves a sock in the face,” Acevedo says.
This year, Amanda, as a senior, got into a fight with a girl in the locker room on Sept. 17, and De Bona seized the opportunity to get rid of her, the suit says.
“What you think is happening is happening,” he told Amanda, referring to expulsion, according to court papers.
The Acevedo family says De Bona lied about the fight — Amanda’s first at the school — and cast her as the instigator.
Preston, a school of nearly 600 students that costs more than $9,000 a year to attend, kicked both girls out before even investigating or following procedures for expulsion, court papers say.
The other girl remains suspended, the Acevedos say.
“[Amanda] was targeted. There was prejudice against her,” her dad said.
More than 200 of her classmates signed a petition for her return, and City Councilman James Vacca and state Sen. Jeff Klein wrote letters of on her behalf.
Amanda was out of school for nearly three weeks before a judge issued a temporary order on Oct. 10 allowing her to return — for now.
Preston is fighting to expel Amanda for good, and the case is due back in court Nov. 12.
“It just sucks because the punishment does not fit the crime,” Amanda said. “I wish it never happened. I don’t want to go through this at all.”
The school did not return a request for comment.
from The New York Post
Conflicts at two religious colleges last week reflect the continuing tensions over gay rights at such institutions, and the ways student groups are navigating the issues.
At Baylor University, the student government adopted a resolution that asks the university’s board to change the student code of conduct to ban “deviate sexual intercourse” instead of “homosexual acts.” The resolution would in fact ban every sex act that two men or two women might perform, but would clarify that the same acts are also inappropriate for straight couples — and that all sex outside of heterosexual marriage is wrong.
At Creighton University, the Roman Catholic student group is objecting to a student group giving out free tickets to a concert on Tuesday by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the musical duo that created “Same Love,” which has become an anthem for the movement for same-sex marriage rights. The Nebraska university briefly suspended the ticket distribution, drawing criticism, and then resumed it, drawing criticism from elsewhere.
Baylor administrators have not commented (and did not respond to a request for comment) on last week’s student government vote, but the proposal prompted intense debate. Because Baylor has regularly refused to recognize gay student groups, that debate took place without anyone speaking formally on behalf of gay students.
Trenton Garza, the student senator who wrote the resolution, said he and other senators believed that specifically banning “homosexual acts” in the student code created “an uncomfortable environment for the homosexual students here.”
The resolution would not change the base of the university policy on sexuality: “Human sexuality is a gift from the creator God and … the purposes of this gift include (1) the procreation of human life and (2) the uniting and strengthening of the marital bond in self-giving love. These purposes are to be achieved through heterosexual relationships within marriage.” But it would change the next part of the policy, which currently states: “Misuses of God’s gift will be understood to include, but not be limited to, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication and homosexual acts.” By replacing “homosexual acts” with “deviate sexual intercourse,” Garza said, there would be less stigma facing gay people on campus.
Further, he said, there would be more fairness in that straight couples could be punished for conduct that would place gay couples in violation of the code.
“We want to apply our policies equally,” he said. He said “yes” when asked if the proposed policy would still bar any sexual act between two people of the same sex.
The vote comes several months after Brittney Griner, Baylor’s former star basketball player, came out, initially prompting speculation that the university was becoming more comfortable with students of differing sexual orientations. But Griner said a few weeks after coming out that she had been told by her coach not to talk about her sexuality.
While much of the debate over the student government resolution at Baylor was on whether the university was getting too accepting of gay sex, the reaction online has been critical of the university for not going far enough. Said one comment on Twitter: “This, #Baylor, is exactly why this gay alum is not giving you $$ yet. Wake up. It’s 2013 and I can get married.”
The Roman Catholic student group at Creighton, not the administration, set off the debate there over the tickets to the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis concert.
The student group urged that the administration block the ticket giveaway (which it briefly did). The debate captured more attention when two students published an open letter in The Creightonian, the student newspaper, criticizing the distribution of tickets. The letter noted that a video accompanying “Same Love” shows “two males in a same-sex relationship throughout their adolescence, adulthood and old age.” Further, the letter noted that the rappers have specifically endorsed votes that paved the way for some states to recognize same-sex marriage.
“We at Creighton pride ourselves on being a Catholic school with strong Catholic values, and we believe we are still that university. With concern for its integrity, we urge Creighton to resist popular practice and instead hold itself to the highest moral standards. Please continue Creighton’s tradition of excellence in this area; cancel the … vouchers for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.”
That prompted an outpouring of debate on the university’s Facebook page. Some alumni applauded the student letter, but many others objected (some even saying that the university should have blocked publication) and many said that the university should never have even delayed distribution of the concert tickets.
A statement released by the university to The Omaha World-Herald said that the university was allowing the ticket giveaway and that this did not violate the university policy not to “endorse issues that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.” The statement noted that the university has had past programs that included Catholic teachings on marriage issues.
from Inside Higher Ed