OT: Gay Student Teacher Removed From Classroom

Buck Strong's picture

Recently, the Beaverton School District here in Beaverton OR., removed a gay student teacher from a 4th grade classroom. The only information that we have is that when asked by a student if he were married, he replied "no." The student asked why and he said that he couldn't get married because he would marry a man and it is against the law.
My employer says that this is not an age appropriate comment. I would have to disagree. People talk about their spouses/partners all the time. If he had said that he didn't have a girlfriend, I don't think there would have been an issue.
Here are links to two editorials about the problem. If you are upset by this situation, I urge you to make your voices heard.
http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/10/gay_in_america_living_with_the.html

http://www.beavertonvalleytimes.com/opinion/story.php?story_id=128641523275921800

Comments

Kilthoser's picture

I WAS that student teacher

I WAS that student teacher back in 1986. Except no kid even asked me that question. My first week of student teaching as a French teacher, the supervising teacher was on jury duty and it was just me and a substitute, so I taught the material (I had just come back from working in France for two years, and later came to realize that knew it better than this redneck SC woman who'd never been out of her home state). The next Monday morning before school, in the first minute of meeting her, without even addressing me by name, she ordered me into the teachers lounge, shut the door and started yelling; accusing me of being a homosexual. I was stunned out of my mind. She claimed she had a nephew in one of the classes and he had asked me about my sexuality in class and that I had given details. I was so shocked I couldn't even say a word. I was simply reeling...it was all a completely tissue of lies from beginning to end, whether created by her "nephew" (if he existed) or herself, I never established. That was the awful beginning to the worst six months of my life; culminating in a failed teaching grade, an ulcer and a near nervous breakdown. I was so in the closet that I couldn't even tell anyone, much less a teacher or administrator so I suffered her viciousness (and she really was to me and the students). Finally near the end, one of my senior French professors asked me one day..in French..about how my semester was going, and finally...in French...I was able to tell it all. I don't think I could've done it in English. It turns out this fantastic professor was a lesbian herself..I'd never even suspected. She bearded the head of the Foreign Language Dept, AND the head of the Education Dept, and had me transfered to another the school the very next day, where, after teaching in a free and fair environment, I ended up with an outstanding evaluation and ended up pioneering a new language immersion programme in the Durham Public Schools. I don't know if the woman was ever disciplined for her cruelty...sadly, probably not, but for the rest of my 10 year teaching career, I made it my business to have a student teacher and nurture him or her carefully and joyfully.
Had this person been my student teacher, I think I would've steered him away from the questions with the advice "Don't answer questions they don't ask", but Fourth graders are pretty astute. If s/he asks a question, then s/he should get an age-appropriate answer. It sounds as if the student teacher was simply 'stating the facts, ma'am". I hope that he finds someone who will go to bat for him too! Maybe by the time that 4th grader is teaching him or herself, the question won't even need to be asked!

Body by God; shetland socks courtesy of Fred

CLABBERS's picture

I have been a teacher for 36

I have been a teacher for 36 years now and have many student teachers. That predates the narrow-minded supervisor that you had. I have never once asked (or accused) my student teachers about their sexual orientation. I have had some, both gay and lesbian, bring up the subject and I was always willing to chat with them about it. I am most upset with the woman you had as a supervisor because she was so old school and still allowed to nearly ruin excellent teachers' lives and careers. I am most impressed that you forged ahead and that your French professor helped you along the way and that you tried again. You knew you would be successful and you went for it. Bien fait! (I just looked up well done in Google translator, so I hope I got it right in French.) FYI, the stigma is still very strong in many areas of our country...progressive, we are not! I know that gay men and women are very prevalent in the field of education and I don't think it should ever be an issue. I apologize for the wicked witch of the south who attacked you. I can only hope that karma works its magic on her one day.
Mark

rjcb3's picture

I remember when I was in Jr.

I remember when I was in Jr. High school and specifically asking one of my teachers (specifically the choir director) if he was married. I asked him that because I knew he was gay and I was 12 years old at the time, being a punk kid in Jr. High struggling with my own self, and having a crush on him (not understanding the crush, but, knowing I had 'those' feelings)

...and I think he knew where I was going with it, but, he just simply said politely "I don't know as that's an appropriate question for you to be asking in school (long pause and then the most direct look straight in the eye) but no...I'm not married." The tone of his voice after his long pause was one of finality and shouted loudly to me "You know the answer and you know why and I'm not going any further with this so don't even try." If I had pushed the conversation, he would have answered me by telling the truth -- he was one of the most outwardly honest people I'd known when I was in school. So, I decided to let it go at that...

Even in the mid-'80s, I felt the need to protect him from what I knew of society at large in rural Turner, Maine. So, I never breathed a word of it since...never. I've always thought of him from time to time, but I've never told the story.

This is 2010 and a LOT has changed since then. The Beaverton people need to realise this...just as so many others do. Also, if they're basing their decision on being something that's not age appropriate, then, they need to decide what topics should and shouldn't be discuss in which grade levels.

)O(
Robert

The article in the Beaverton

The article in the Beaverton Valley Times states that the school district has a policy against discrimination based on sexual orientation. To me that means that this student teacher was in place according to the guidelines of the policy.
To answer a question the way he did, seemingly provoked by the student, is not inconsistent with the policy. His dismissal was uncalled for and probably illegal.

In other times it would have been and probably still is today in some places "unpopular" to be a member of a non main stream religion or more simply not a member of the mainstream religion. To answer the question posed by a student whether the teacher goes to the established church or another one (and why) is the exact same situation. As in, I don't go to your church because I worship Satan (or because I don't believe there is a God).

I have to say that don't ask don't tell is not a bad policy for schools to adopt. I mean don't ask and don't tell ANYTHING AT ALL about one's personal life. Married, children, religion, politics, more.
This student teacher may have wanted to raise awareness in his classroom, which is not a bad thing. This awareness could be raised when it is actually the topic or part of a topic being taught.
An educational agenda rather than a personal one.
It would not be a bad thing to teach children that certain questions are not polite to be asked and that privacy is a value.
The question of privacy seems to be totally overlooked in today's world. Whereas it is just fine to be open and proud, as it is to be religious or an atheist, we need to value privacy more.

Chris Vandenburg's picture

Here is the link to the

Here is the link to the story on Joel Burns; councelman for Fort Worth. I wish I had a link to the video as few things make me cry as much as his city meeting last night.

Chris

http://www.theshorthorn.com/content/view/20488/265/

rjcb3's picture

Oh, I cried...with him, for

Oh, I cried...with him, for him, and because of him...

...the things that touch a person, and make him remember...

...the things that people will do just to make sure that the next generation just might have a chance at being better and that no one should be so tortured.

)O(
Robert

steve kadel's picture

awe inspiring. cried like a

awe inspiring. cried like a gay baby :)

we won't just get a cat, nubby nu nu, will manifest a kitten from our love and lint from our hemp socks

Tallguy's picture

I've just been watching "Old

I've just been watching "Old Yeller" (1957) and then "Savage Sam", both starring a very handsome young and talented actor, Tommy Kirk. He starred in a number of very successful Disney movies, until in 1963, Walt Disney discovered he was homosexual, and fired him. He played in a few less than stellar movies after that, but does anyone remember him today? Where is he now? What is he doing (he is 68)? Has anything changed?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Kirk

Your reading of the

Your reading of the Wikipedia article is slightly different from mine.
It said that he was fired when it was discovered he was having a sexual relationship with a 15 year old boy. At the time KirK would have been either 21 or 22. In our enlightened times of today he would have been arrested and forever had his name on a child sexual abuser registry.
Just an observation.
It also said that Disney rehired him.

As misguided as the BSD's

As misguided as the BSD's decision may have been, I am happy that the newsworthy events are a little more tame than when I was in high school -- boys in texas or the mid-west being lynched for being gay...

Tallguy's picture

This is just another example

This is just another example of where grown-ups just make a mess of things. The child asked, was given an answer, and would just shrug it off as "oh, cool" and away they go. But the child made the mistake of telling an adult (I use the word loosely) who got their knickers all in a knot over something that really doesn't affect them one way or another. The answer was quite appropriate to the age of the child.... they just want to know one way or another, and don't really care about details. They ask "where do babies come from?" and only want to know the simple answer -- they don't want details, they don't need a biological lecture. The student answered honestly, but I agree that knowing his environment, he may have made some other vague answer such as "never thought about it", or "I'm not ready yet", or "I will someday". And the child would think nothing more of it. But only when grown-ups (who should know better one would expect), get mixed up in the situation that it gets blown all out of proportion. Children never think twice about simple straight-forward answers... it's their parents that call attention to the real horrors of a remark! I'm so glad I've never grown up! :-)

Bill's picture

A little girl asked her Mom,

A little girl asked her Mom, "How did the human race appear?"

The mother answered, "God made Adam and Eve and they had children, and so was all mankind made..."

Two days later, the girl asked her father the same question. The father answered, "Many years ago there were monkeys from which the human race evolved."

The confused girl returned to her mother and said, "Mom, how is it possible that you told me the human race was created by God, and Dad said they developed from monkeys?"

The mother answered, "Well, Dear, it's very simple. I told you about my side of the family, and your father told you about his."

QueerJoe's picture

I just read the article and

I just read the article and I'm fascinated and horrified.

I'm not too sure the student teacher didn't broach the subject in a way that was too advanced/too political for 8/9 year old kids, but I would have thought the administration would have at least just reprimanded him and given him ways of addressing the question in a more age-appropriate way. I mean he is a student-teacher after all...no?

What they've done is send two pretty clear messages. The first, to other teachers that discussing this issue is potentially subjecting them to termination. But second, and worse, to the students, that being open about these issues is a bad thing, and subjects a person to being disappeared.

More horrific are some of other previous instances sited by the writer of homophobic treatment of teachers.

daveballarat's picture

Guys, when living in

Guys, when living in Indonesia, a Moslem country, many years ago, when watching western movies at the cinema and a scene has a guy touching a girl's hand... there would be cuts to the next morning ... we always wondered how much we really missed. Then sometimes we would be the pirate version and ... well... once you've seen one hairy arse, you've seen them all...

While living in Singapore, a predominantly Buddhist country, I sat in on a group meeting with about 50 gay teachers discussing whether we should or should not come out to our school communities. Most of the guys were local Singaporeans, the society is quite conservative, young and enthusiastic and pro coming out ... I was working at an international school, they also tend to be very conservative, but always the teaching staff know about me... whichever school I work at eventually, and there has never a problem. Probably some of the parents have worked me out... but they respect me, it's my business... and anyway, I advised the group against coming out. One of the guys a few months later decided to come out to his Year 12 class ... and he lost his job, his career ... not worth it. A small island of 4 million people ... he would be branded forever. Pretty tough.

There was a lot of people at my school here in Istanbul wearing purple today ... not sure if they were aware of its significance... but we can support the kids without endangering ourselves but just being there ... listening... but very clear on boundaries.

Dave
Etiler,
Istanbul,
Turkey

Chris Vandenburg's picture

LOL!! Oh Joe there can

LOL!! Oh Joe there can never be too much cleavage on Sesame Street. After all most that watch are still breast feeding aren't they?

I have to ammend this to say that those that are watching the sex, violence etc. are probably still breast feeding too! Ick!

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Chris is right, this

Chris is right, this situation is wrong. This seems to be the same type of mentality that says that single and/or unmarried women shouldn't be allowed to teach. I put this in the same category as protesting about too much cleavage on Sesame Street yet not making a ruckus over the violence, adult language and semi-steamy sex scenes that are part of early prime time television that most kids are exposed to. Purely ridiculous. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Chris Vandenburg's picture

I have to paraphrase Miss

I have to paraphrase Miss Manners (Judith Martin) here.... "What world do we live in when we have to announce our sexuality at the door?" Then again perhaps the teacher chose to give more information than needed instead of simply saying, "No, I'm not married". Either way the situation is wrong on all accounts.