School principals set the tone for the culture of the school. This situation is disgraceful.
Sequoyah High School student Chris Sigler were seeking to form a Gay-Straight Alliance at his school. Sequoyah principal Maurice Moser thwarted their efforts at every turn.
The Sequoyah High School GSA should have been a done deal by now…if it weren’t for the principal, Maurice Moser. When they circulated a petition to show support for the GSA and got over 150 signatures, students say Moser banned petitions about the GSA at the school. Then, when Chris and two other students put together an application for school recognition of the GSA, Moser wouldn’t even take it from them because they hadn’t named a faculty sponsor. At least three teachers have expressed interest in sponsoring the GSA but then changed their minds after meeting with Moser about it. We’ve read that Moser has admitted that in the past, when other clubs needed sponsors, he helped them out – but this time he refused to help.
When Sigler wore a t-shirt emblazoned with “Gay Straight Alliance: We’ve Got Your Back” the principal told him to change his shirt, turn it inside out, or go home.
Chris ignored that [demand], because he knew his shirt was fine under the Sequoyah dress code. Later, Moser charged into Chris’s economics class, interrupted the students in the middle of taking a test, and ordered everyone except Chris to leave. What happened next is a matter for the criminal justice system. But putting aside the assault and battery allegations against Moser, it’s unconstitutional and totally inappropriate for a high school student to be punished for speaking his mind peacefully through the words on a T-shirt. The Supreme Court says that students can express whatever ideas they want through their clothing as long as they don’t cause a “substantial disruption,” and it sounds like the only person causing a substantial disruption at Sequoyah last week was Moser.
Stories like this not only anger me, but they make me wonder what the future holds for our family. My daughter is just the kind of person who’d start a GSA if the school didn’t already have one. In fact, if she knew about them now she’d probably try to start one in her elementary school.
The sense of clarity and resolution that I used to have about my daughter’s public school education, like she’ll go to X Middle School and then onto Y High School, has completely disappeared. Now I know we’ll play it by ear and try to find the most nurturing/least hostile environment for her.
All of a sudden the grade on her last spelling test doesn’t seem so important.
Listening to public radio today in the car my daughter and I heard a story about a famous civil rights activist.
She looked at me, “why haven’t their been any gay rights activists?”
“There have been gay rights activists. Lots of them.”
A look of betrayal crossed her face. “Why don’t we learn about them in school?”
“I think it isn’t allowed in the curriculum. Do you want to learn about gay and lesbian history?”
“Yes! And that school isn’t going to know what hit them. I demand that we learn this,” her small body tense with anger and determination.
“I can teach you about gay history but, . . . I really think teaching it in the schools is not allowed. In fact when you have sex education they aren’t going to tell you about anything gay either.”
“What!? I don’t want to be less educated than everyone else!”
I assured her that I had never intended to leave her sex education to the public schools and besides in our community sex education is abstinence only, so she can rest assured plenty of the straight kids will be far more uneducated than I’d ever let her be.
I think that last little snarkiness directed at the public school sex education curriculum went over her head.
Nevertheless, she was buzzing with righteous anger. She has a sense of justice. She has learned about the fights for civil rights in her Social Studies classes. She knows about slavery and women’s suffrage in the 19th century, the fight for gender equality and the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. She knows that there was a time when we didn’t teach about those fights for justice in the schools.
Teaching that history in the public schools is part of our continued progress toward equality and justice.
It’s a sad moment when you have to tell your fifth grader that in 2011 the school refuses to teach her history and her sexuality.