I’m going to ask you to do something that may be very difficult for you, but I think it may be the only way to get some adults out there to open their eyes to a very real dilemma our schools and our young people face daily. So, please trust me and sincerely do what I am asking you to do.
I want you to imagine, for just this space of time, that your child has either admitted to you that they are gay, lesbian, or questioning their sexuality or that you suspect that they are, even though they may not have directly confessed this to you. Forget for now the other emotions that would probably overwhelm you at this news, and focus on the fear; the fear of what such a revelation and its life style will mean to your child due to the intolerance and hatred they will surely face because of who they are. Let that fear settle in for just a moment.
Now imagine sending them to school…
Imagine sending them to a school in Minnesota’s Anoka Hennepin School District, where teachers have been silenced by the district’s Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy, or their “neutrality policy” which states that”Anoka Hennepin staff shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation.” Think about the message this policy sends to your child; what they are feeling is so bad that it cannot even be acknowledged, let alone discussed, at school or even privately with their teachers.
And imagine the message it sends to the other students in the district. Connect the dots, just as many of these students will, that, since even the mention of LGBT students is off-limits at school, students like your child should also be off-limits. Feel the intolerance and hatred growing in these students whose minds have been closed off to the possibility that students like your child have not chosen this path but were born as they are. Imagine sending your child into that hostile environment everyday; an environment that should be safe and supportive of all students in attendance. Feel the fear that parents like you must feel every single day as you send your child off to that misguided intolerance and hatred.
Now, let me paint a different picture for you. Imagine sending your gay, lesbian, or sexually questioning child to a school which openly acknowledges the differences in all of us and treats such differences with candor and respectful tolerance. Imagine an environment that does not make your child feel that they are off-limits; rather it draws them in to a community of diversity and celebrates those things that make us all so unique. Imagine your child hearing the simple message that being born gay, lesbian, or transgender was no more their choice than the color of their eyes or the shape of their nose.
Dr. Steve Perry, CNN Education Contributor and founder and principal of the Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut, stated it so succinctly in a recent interview with Dr. Drew when he said, “When we begin to make children feel like there’s something wrong with them, as if they can be deprogrammed for what it is that they’re feeling, then what we make them feel is that they are somehow marginalized. But we also make the other group feel emboldened, and then we pit the two groups against one another. What we have to do as a school is teach that there needs to be a safe space. And as long as your expression of who you are doesn’t impede upon my expression of who I am, then we have ourselves an amazing academic experience.”
Imagine that your child has admitted to you that they are gay, lesbian, or questioning their sexuality, or that you suspect that they are. Feel the fear, and ask yourself honestly, which kind of school would you want to send your child to? Which kind of school is going to treat your child with the respect and tolerance that they deserve? And which kind of school will teach your child and all children to celebrate the diversity they will surely encounter throughout their lives?
If your answer is what I suspect it is, don’t we owe it to all of our children-straight, gay, lesbian, or undecided-to create the kind of schools that Dr. Perry speaks of?
Perry went on to say, “Our job as educators is to tell children that the world is big and beautiful, and that they can embrace diversity and not choose a side, simply because they’re learning about it.”
Imagine that kind of school…