Thursday, March 13, 2014

The details

I thought I might as well tell you why my boss and I butted heads the other day, heck I tell you all everything. We have a news show that comes into our classrooms every morning geared toward middle and high schoolers. A few weeks ago we had a story from Arizona.

I explained that a law had been passed in Arizona allowing companies that felt homosexuality was against their religious belief could refuse to provide services to gay people if they so chose. The ultimate question was, would the governor sign the law or veto it.

Many students nodded and voiced support of this law. I told them I could definitely understand their feelings, after all if a person owned a company shouldn’t then have the right to choose with whom they worked.

Then I asked how they would feel if the next group of people to be singled out were people who had been divorced. What if a company said that divorce was against their religious belief and wouldn’t allow divorced people in their establishment.  Some students seemed to realize that this could affect their families and it didn’t seem quite as cut and dry.

I explained that laws dealing with the rights of gay people would be in the news for most of their growing up years and eventually they would be the ones voting on them. I told them to look to their parents as their first, and best source of information on this and any topic, but that they were getting to the age when they would be exposed to different opinions and it was good to know what the different opinions were.  Listening to someone with opinions different from yours didn’t mean you needed to change your views, but only that you were mature enough to respect that others could have a different opinion. You were free to respectfully disagree – perhaps you will change them to your way of thinking, maybe something they say will change an opinion you hold. Listening to different opinions showed your maturity and willingness to grow in your understanding.

I ended this roughly ten-minute discussion by saying than I had my own opinions because my son was gay and I thought he was one of the finest men I knew.

The next afternoon, the boss came to my room to say he had received an angry phone call from a parent saying that the discussion was inappropriate for a 6th grade class. He told me he was supportive of me to the parent and told the parent he would look into the details.

I told him I would be happy to talk to any parent with a problem and I assured him I would be polite and respectful. He told me that was not my place.

I explained this had come up because of the news story that the school had broadcast into my room and that as a social studies teacher I felt that occasionally discussing current events was part of what I should be teaching. The boss told me current events were NOT to be discussed in class because that was not part of the curriculum.

I was stunned to hear that a teacher, especially as social studies teacher, was never to mention current events or anything in class that was not specifically mentioned in the common core standards. He seemed to have no concept of a teachable moment.

When finding out the story had come in on the school network he indicated that no more stories that contained any mention of homosexuality/gay right would be shown on Channel one – his direct quote was “That won’t happen again.” Was he indicating he would engage in censorship? 

He ended by saying, “We won’t fight this ‘fight’ at our school. I wasn’t sure which ‘fight’ he was speaking of:

-       Insisting on tolerances for all
-       Homosexuality
-       Ignorance

He said students should receive any information on this topic from their parents only.

The following is the letter I wrote him.

Dr. Boss,

I appreciate you coming to me Thursday afternoon with your concerns about the phone call you received. I thank you for being so professional and I will do as you ask and refrain from this topic to the best of my ability.

I do wish, however, to point out a few things that have floated through my mind since. Although it’s not in the common core curriculum for sixth grade, we are always encouraged to discuss 9-11 each September. It’s an event that concerns all Americans.  Near Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday I also touch on the civil rights movement, mentioning Rosa Parks and the college students who dared to sit at the lunch counter in Greensboro, again it concerns all Americans.  I speak of tolerance and acceptance of people different from ‘us’. Yet if a parent had called you complaining that, “We don’t agree with blacks being able to sit at the front of the bus or drink from our water fountains or eat in our restaurants.”  I doubt you would have asked me to never mention again that people of color should be afforded the same rights as whites.

I feel that you would want your teachers to stand and occasionally speak for the rights of Hispanic, or black students because they are part of our school and we should state loud and clear they should be treated with dignity and respect. We also have gay students at our school, we have students with gay parents at our school, yet you ask that I remain silent when a news story depicts prejudice against them and pretend that this form of prejudice does not exist.

You said, this isn’t a something you would ‘fight’ at our school. I know you’d like to ignore it because it is such a hot topic and there are such strong feelings on both sides. I will do as you ask, but I need you to understand how this makes me feel. If a parent called and told you they didn’t believe in adoption, and they didn’t like you going around telling everyone your son was adopted, how would you feel?

You don’t give lectures on adoption, but if someone has a question or it comes up in conversation you would never hide the fact that your wonderful little boy is adopted. To deny this would be the same as saying you were ashamed of the fact. Your son had no say in the fact that two loving parents adopted him. My son had no say in the fact that he was born gay. Would you allow a child at our school to be bullied because he was adopted with out saying to the bully, “My son is adopted and he’s the finest boy I know”? Would you expect me to say less if one of my students is being bullied by being called gay?

I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts and concerns.

Written by PK at 5:30 PM



At 1:23 AM, Blogger Cat said...

Standing ovation for you PK! Boo to the parent who complained and double boo to the 'boss'. Would be interested in his response...if he had the b*lls!

Sending lots of positive energy your way!

Hugs and Blessings...

At 2:27 AM, Blogger Leah Q said...

This brought tears to my eyes, both your explanation to the students and your response to your boss.

At 2:32 AM, Blogger Leah Q said...

I didn't get to finish. I plan to share your explanation with my fifth grade daughter as we're having to discuss that we disagree with many of her classmates and their parents but ultimately she'll need to make up her own mind. There is a gay child (or three) sitting in your classroom who's feeling a little more love and acceptance because of what you said.

At 3:26 AM, Blogger Roz said...

Wow PK, *claps loudly* I think you did an amazing job both with your students and with the letter. Very well said, well reasoned and, especially with the letter, respectful. I'm glad you did share this with us :)

I'm very saddened that the parent felt the need to complain. What kind of tolerance and understanding is that child being taught at home?


At 5:06 AM, Blogger an English Rose said...

Wow you go PK, How mean spirited some people are. I wonder what sort of parent it was that complained and their poor children, what a life
love Jan.xx

At 6:19 AM, Blogger ronnie said...

PK, well done you. Every time I read about this man I wonder how he ever got to teach children. I bet you know which parent it probably was.

Love and hugs,

At 6:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was great! I'm glad you are a teacher! Wish my kids had more teachers like you.

At 7:33 AM, Blogger abby said...

Hmmm.....not teaching current events in a 5th grade classroom????? A applaud you both for not baking down, but also for the professional way you handleed it. A lesson many of those little minds will remember for a long time, I bet.
hugs abby

At 8:29 AM, Blogger Florida Dom said...

You Go Girl. Those kids are so lucky to have a teacher like you. And what a shame they have such an idiot running the school. Keep fighting the good fight.


At 8:37 AM, Blogger Faerie Wings said...

Bravo, if this country had more teachers like you our kids would be much better off.

At 8:51 AM, Blogger Paul said...

brava, well done you, I'm proud of you.
Love and warm hugs,

At 10:56 AM, Blogger Patty said...

For all of my career this was something I struggled with. As a nurse all of my patients recieved care,treatment, and as much support, emotional and physical as possible. I never felt that this care was at odds with the oath taken as a US Army Officer to obey orders of those appointed over me. Thank goodness even the Army has begun to see the light.

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Meg said...

Your talk with your class was wonderful! After the news story your discussion was enlightening and thought provoking. I would have loved being in your class.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Autumn said...

AMEN to this entire post! You did the right thing, sister; and you should never apologize for doing what is right. Ugh, everything your boss said makes me sick--it's scary that schools are censoring their students from current events that are not lude or violent in nature. Ignoring an issue does not make it go away, and the way you presented it to your students was the right way to go.

I have another blog that I write in about religious topics, and I did a post on the law in Arizona as well:

Thankfully, the law was not signed :)

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Ami Starsong said...

This is yet another case of "more than my job's worth". Unfortunately there are a lot like your boss. It applies not just to gay men but to everyone who doesn't fit in with what society thinks is the norm. Just think about it, the Paralympics is now watched and acclaimed as much as the Olympics, but go back twenty years and just see what it was like then. The disabled were second class citizens and could hardly get around because there were no ramps on curbs or wide doorways into shops, let alone getting on and off public transport.

There should be more teachers like you who are prepared to stand their ground and teach what is right and what is real. That is the only way the upcoming generations will learn to live without discriminating or being discriminated against. Well done you!

Many hugs

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Katie said...

This made me NUTS to read PK!! Just the fact that stuff like this still goes on in this day and age turns my stomach!!!! I am sorry that you have to deal with someone who is so small minded, and even worse is a principal, responsible for the education and growth of our children, future world leaders. UGH!

Extremely nice job PK! My hat is off to you for how you are handling it. Fingers are crossed that all things in this regard smooth out for you, and that people will wise up and teach our children to think for themselves as well as respect all differences! Good for you I say!!! Many hugs,

<3 Katie

At 4:45 PM, Blogger Mona Lisa said...

Amen, PK

MOna Lisa

At 7:41 PM, Blogger PK said...

Thanks Cat, I wish he had had the courage to tell the parent that if it came up in class that it was handled appropriately and she has no need to be concerned.

At 7:45 PM, Blogger PK said...

Leah, Thank you for saying this. Even before I knew my son was gay I was talking about tolerance for all. In fact it was some of my comments that I didn't even remember that helped my son realize he could come out to me at the tender age of 14.

At 7:47 PM, Blogger PK said...

Roz, We live in a small southern town. I was amazed that only one parent called. I had the same lesson with all 90 of my students. So maybe we are coming around - of course boss listened to the one crazy instead of the 89 that seemed to have no objection.

At 7:48 PM, Blogger PK said...

Jan, sadly there is still so much prejudice here. But I think we're getting better - honestly.

At 7:49 PM, Blogger PK said...

I have a handful of possibilities, but like I said I have 90 students each day. I don't want to know.

At 7:58 PM, Blogger PK said...

Thanks Tia - teaching, you never know if it's working until years later. I'm not a teachers that puts much stock in tests, more in how the child turns out.

At 8:02 PM, Blogger PK said...

Abby, you should applaud me for not smacking him upside the head! LOL! I hope they will remember it.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger PK said...

He's been there for six years now and I've about had it. I think he will be moved how that he has his doctorate. But I don't want to break in a new one either. I just want the administration to leave me alone until I retire. I promise to teach my kids, I just can't deal with administration.

At 8:10 PM, Blogger PK said...

I don't think my boss will ever agree, but I sure thank you for saying so.

At 8:11 PM, Blogger PK said...

Thank you Paul, you guys out here mean so much to me.

At 8:12 PM, Blogger PK said...

Patty, I love you! You've been quietly fighting this longer than I have. I hope the military continues to move in the right direction.

At 8:14 PM, Blogger PK said...

Meg, I would have loved to have you. I home some of my students will think I said something worthwhile over the years.

At 8:27 PM, Blogger Leigh Smith aka Sunny Girl said...

You already know my feelings.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Baxter said...

very good letter. your boss is not a leader, he is a wimp , trying to be politically correct. Good job on your part. I am very tired of the prejudice shown gay people. My wife and I have gay and lesbian friends and have a good time with them. I just don't get why people have to be so dang mean. These people were born the way they were born.

At 8:43 PM, Blogger PK said...

I'm thrilled it wasn't signed too! You don't know how good I feel to know how much support I have out here. I hope I never question myself, but if I ever do I'll come back here to read.

At 8:55 PM, Blogger PK said...

In the future this won't be an issue - it will be so ordinary no one will think of it and that day can't get here soon enough for me.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger PK said...

I guess the very best part of it is I'm at a point in my career where I'm not scared anymore, one of my favorite quotes is "Be sure you're right, then go ahead." I'm not pushing an agenda, but I won't be intimidated. And another little piece of information that make this interesting - our superintendent is gay.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger PK said...

Thanks Mona.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger PK said...

I do and I appreciate it.

At 9:07 PM, Blogger PK said...

Thanks Baxte, when I saved this letter in my computer I saved it under 'gutless wonder'. My son just married his boyfriend of nine years and I just love all their friends, they are truly some of the finest people I know.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Terpsichore said...

Hi already know how I feel and my support of you. The children are so very lucky to have a compassionate, intelligent, and well-informed teacher in you. :-) Hugs

At 11:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are brave, intelligent, and a wonderful example of what a "teacher"should be...your "boss" has unfortunately spent so much time being a student he has forgotten that educating, inspiring thought and progress is what he is actually supposed to's action...not just some vague theory that he ponders over for his thesis.

At 12:03 AM, Blogger PK said...

Anon, thank you for taking the time to comment. You are so right about my boss. He just completed his doctorate. I think he is terrified to take a stand on something controversial in case it upset his climb up the educational ladder. It's sad. I'm going to be teaching a few more years, he'll be there way too long.


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