One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

March 24, 2006

Two years ago, Vermont legislators passed a law, calling on schools to institute anti-bullying programs.

Since gay/lesbian/transgender youth are prime targets of bullying, it made sense that Williston Central School would invite a homosexual youth to address the student body about the issue.

The speaker was sponsored by Outright Vermont, the mission of which is to foster sensitivity and understanding of the issues facing gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. From the website:

“Through education and outreach, we seek to challenge stereotypes and prejudice and create an environment in which all young people can realize their full potential, free from the weight of hate and fear.”

Apparently, the goals of the organization rattled some parents enough that they lobbied the school to get the speaker engagement cancelled. Their wishes were granted.

“I think that it raised questions,” (Principle Walter Nardelli) said. “People had visited their Web site and were concerned. The parents are not opposed to the topic, but some were a little bit worried about what the message was going to be.”

Now that’s a load of crap. What, exactly, is the message that the parents are afraid of? Do they really think this young gay man, who has endured harassment himself, will stand in front of an assembly of his peers and try to convert them to homosexuality?

Nardelli said the school would continue to look for ways to get the anti-bullying message across.

Who are they gonna dig up that won’t spook these parents? A former captain of the football team?

I’ll tell you what message was broadcast loud and clear by this pussyfooting principle: that gay and lesbian youth should not have a voice or face, and that they do not deserve protection from bullying. By kowtowing to prejudiced parents, he reinforced the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule. We’ll allow queers to live among us so long as they don’t broadcast their sexual orientation. If they do, then they can expect rejection, harassment, violence.

The tip-toe tenor of the article pissed me off. Get these parents to define what it is they fear. Quote them, and get them to put their names to it.