In another 20 years, gay rights will not be the issue it is today. It will not be the issue it is today because kids like Graeme Taylor understand that gay kids are no different from straight kids and the homophobia in schools is not only unacceptable, it's deadly.
Taylor also understands the difference between encouraging hate and encouraging understanding. In his amazing speech above, he takes the Howell, Michigan school board to task for disciplining a teacher on the day students wore purple to school for supporting gay students against bullies.
In reprimanding Michigan high school teacher Jay McDowell for telling a student his anti-gay comments were unacceptable and having him leave the class, administrators said his actions "could be construed as teacher-to-student bullying; ironic of the anti-bullying message of the day. Your demonstration of intolerance stands in contradistinction of the anti-bullying message of the day."
What the nine-year Howell High School teacher McDowell did was confront student Dan Glowacki's belief that wearing a Confederate flag belt buckle — to many, a sign of racist support — was the equivalent of people wearing purple in support of LGBT youth. For that, McDowell was suspended for a day without pay; he's appealing.
But McDowell, who's filing a grievance contesting the district's decision, says the school district's report, which blames the incident squarely on the teacher, is a "complete fabrication" of what transpired. "You disciplined them in anger under the guise of harassment and bullying because you opposed their religious belief and were offended by it," the reprimand letter continues. "The students were causing no disruption to the educational process" — a clear nod to students' First Amendment protections, which are limited in schools only by disruption of normal school activity. Part of McDowell's punishment calls for him to attend First Amendment protection training.
To which Graeme Taylor, son of a teacher and Ann Arbor high school student, calls BS:
Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Taylor told board members about how their district isn't just home to the KKK (Grand Wizard Robert Miles lived nearby before he died), but to intolerant students who drove him, at the age of nine, to attempt suicide.
What McDowell tried to do, says Taylor, was move the needle ever so slightly in the other direction and defend LGBT kids who have found hallway torment to be status quo. "The best thing you can do right now is just give him his pay for that day, and just reverse the disciplinary actions," Taylor told the school board. "He did an amazing thing. He did something that's inspired a lot of people. And whenever — ever — I have a teacher stand up for me like that, they change in my eyes. I support Jay McDowell, and I hope you do too."
It's heartbreaking to me that any child would feel so despondent at NINE years old. Heartbreaking. Thank heavens he didn't succeed, because his passion and the truth he speaks at this school board meeting should be something everyone in this country stands and applauds.
I support Jay McDowell, too. We all should. The irony of a teacher being disciplined for standing up to bullying and subtle power messages on a day dedicated to anti-bullying is stunning.
In 2009, my high school daughter gave a speech to her history class entitled Injustice, Inequality, and Civil Liberties. It addressed the frustration about Proposition 8's passage in California, and her sense that she was taught one thing in school while the rest of the world lived something entirely different. She and the Graeme Taylors of this world give me hope. From her speech:
Many have argued that, "separate, but equal," upholds the principle of equality for all; however, hasn't history shown us the lie in that statement? Segregation and discrimination in this country has always been inequal, whether it be with the separation of whites and blacks, the Asians on the west coast, or the "No Irish Need Apply" help wanted signs. Our history has proven that separate but equal is never truly equal. Adding to this, the idea of allowing religion or personal beliefs to determine the legality of gay marriage is wrong.
By passing Proposition 8, the government is forcing religious beliefs upon us; consequently violating the First Amendment of the Constitution. Moreover, even if you do not personally agree with gay marriage, are you willing to strip the rights of others? Proposition 8 is not a question of whether one agrees or disagrees with same-sex marriage, but whether one believes we are all one people, we are all equal, and should therefore have equal rights under the law.
American history is scarred with racism, discrimination, hypocrisy, injustice, and inequality; however, we are now in a new era, and a new century. Through tolerance, understanding, and kindness we can begin to create a new America. By learning from history, we can avoid the mistakes of our past so that we, the children of America, can create an country where no one is denied their civil liberties, and where our Constitution is never reduced to lies and hypocrisy.
This school board should listen to the wisdom of the young.
crossposted to Crooks & Liars