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26 April 2007


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a Paperback Writer

Okay, you're probably not going to like this answer to your question, but I'm going to write it anyway.
I'm a long-time veteran of teaching English at a public junior high school, and I know why the administrator has "punished" the teacher. Ever hear of the sacrificial lamb or the scapegoat? Yup.
Look, I personally think this is a marvelously done article for a kid to write. I would have praised its author up and down for writing it and suggested it be posted online and sent in as an opinion piece to the local newspaper. But I would never have been the teacher to approve it for publication in a SCHOOL newspaper because it would mean my job also.
Such an article will trigger reactions from biggotted parents wanting to "protect" their little darlings from the (gasp!) idea that just maybe gay people have rights. The principal will be fighting the press, the school district, and the parents. Now, I currently have a principal who would be personally very supportive of gay students and their rights. She would immediately punish anyone who harrassed or teased a gay student. She currently encourages all teachers at the school to remind students that the words "gay" and "fag" are not to be used as synonyms for "stupid."
But my principal would never open herself up for court battles with parents by allowing this letter to be published in our own school newspaper.
For further proof of what biggotted parents will do, google what's been happening in Bountiful, Utah, where the PTA newletter DARED to include an ad for a scholarship opportunity for gay/lesbian/transgender students. The fight has been going on for weeks.
Once again, although you may rail on me for this stance, I would have strongly encouraged this student to publish the piece in the opinion section of the local newspaper (one of our local papers would have gladly accepted it, although the other would not have) and online. More people would have the chance to read it there, anyway. (Look at it now: tons of people are reading it online.)

a Paperback Writer

Oh yes, and before you call me a coward for protecting my job, if I were fired for promoting the right of one student's free speech, there's no way to know if my replacement would be able to teach the several hundred students I would otherwise have contact with in the next few years that tolerance needs to happen. In my classroom, this is talked about at least once a week (race, preference, religion, age, etc.). What if a bigot got my job? What then? Would it still be a good thing that I sacrificed my job for ONE kid? Not in my mind.
So, you may think I'm a coward, but I'm going to teach tolerance to 150 kids every day this year -- and yes, I'm happy this student's letter is getting the attention it deserves.
Okay, I'll shut up now.


No way. I wouldn't call you a coward for protecting your job -- and I think it would have been a great idea if she had recommended that the student submit the article to the local paper.

The teacher says she didn't think it would be controversial, but that's just her word -- it's perfectly possible (and judging from the comments written by a lot of people from the community -- whew! -- maybe even probable) that she knew it was going to be controversial. (Is it me, or was that a really long sentence?) And if she did know it was going to be controversial, and went ahead with it anyway, she knew what she was getting into.

It'll be interesting to see how it plays out -- if it does go to court, it seems to me (from my very, very broad and somewhat sketchy understanding of the cases mentioned) that the principal was in the wrong on this one. But we'll see, right?


Looks like she's switching schools. No court battle.

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bookshelves of doom: "Advocating tolerance is controversial?"

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