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NC principal: Queer-Straight Alliance violated policy by holding awareness session during assembly

The principal of East Chapel Hill High School, David Thaden, says its Queer-Straight Alliance’s members and advisor ran afoul of school policy by holding information sessions during class time.

English teachers brought their classes to these mandatory assemblies, which were not part of the official curriculum of the school — something that has to be approved by the schools administrators. Thaden said he was unaware of this student-organized event.

On the hot seat is QSA advisor Darryl Piggot and the English teachers involved. (N&O):

He said the event was organized by students of the club, who wanted to hold “sort of an awareness session with some of our students.” Club members conducted the event.

When asked about the assembly afterward, club sponsor and East Chapel Hill High math teacher Darryl Piggot said, “Let me get back to you on that,” but then he did not call back to discuss the meetings.

Thaden said a more appropriate venue for the event would have been during the students’ lunch hour, “something that kids could have attended if they wanted to, but where they were not required to go.”

The matter came to a head because of three parents who called Thaden to complain about the QSA assembly. One was George Spencer, whose son and daughter attended the session.

He said it was his understanding that the purpose of the meeting seemed to be to urge others to accept their peers whose sexuality is different from their own.

“I think the point is, these teachers did this without the approval of the school system,” Spencer said in an interview. “If it were math, there is a way the state of North Carolina wants math taught, and the teachers have to teach it that way, whether they want to or not. [The students aren’t] mature enough to discuss it without adult moderation — and there weren’t any adults involved.”

This is a really unfortunate situation, because we all know that the dissemination of tolerance information is sorely needed in schools. It looks like Piggot and the English teachers meant well and clearly didn’t think it would have caused any blowback, but it’s odd that none of them thought to run it by the principal ahead of time. It is North Carolina, after all, and while Chapel Hill is about as liberal a town as you’ll find in the state, there’s still harassment of LGBTQ students (thus the need to pass an anti-bullying bill). The fact that only three parents had an issue with the assembly is a positive sign.

More below the fold, including a video of a student at another Chapel Hill HS who shared her story of being gay-bashed with me.Last year I spoke to the students of the GSA at Chapel Hill High (a different school), and it was clear that the kind of student-to-student education about accepting LGBTQ peers was sorely needed.

After the GSA meeting, senior Kat Gipson didn’t have a class right away, so she took time to sit with me and discuss the group, life in school for LGBT young men and women, what her plans are for the future (being out in college, and on the job one day), and what it’s like to be LGBT and in her faith community…Kat shares her personal story of being gay-bashed in school; it forced her out of the closet to her parents, and spurred her to join the GSA.

Kat’s story is extremely relevant here in NC as an anti-bullying bill died in the General Assembly, only a few votes short — if all of the Democrats who had promised to support the bill had been there to vote, it would have passed. They failed students like Kat Gipson. As I asked then — how on earth is it controversial to protect all children from harassment and violence?

Back to the article in question, you should see some of the exchanges in the comments.

Sweetsie, This stuff (indoctrination of public school children to “embrace” gay lifestyles) is going on all over the country.

Sweetsie, I agree! Unfortunately, I also agree with JohnPershing – Chapel Hill is the same as far too many other cities in this country. Thank goodness it hasn’t seeped into elementary schools here as it has in places like California. The day I have to tell my second graders that they have to accept the gay lifestyle (ugh!) is the day I sign up for Wake Tech’s nursing program.

“If you know of someone who is directly involved in this matter, please feel free to encourage him/her to contact us toll free at 1-800-835-5233 and ask for Jeana in Litigation Intake.”—-If any readers have (or know of anybody having) potential legal standing in this case (ie aggrieved parents or students) they are encouraged to get in touch with the Alliance Defense Fund using the aforementioned contact information.

CharloteCow–Bless your heart, this process which is sponsored by the ACLU, the NEA, and the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Edjukashun Network) begins in publik kindergarten. GLSEN has a video called “It’s Elementary”. But yopu are correct in noting that Kalifornia is much further down the road. (see current Kalifornia law S.B. 777)

Attacking Chapel Hill is very insulting to the residents of Chapel Hill, Sweetsie. I don’t think your comment initiates or supports a healthy discussion at all. It’s derisive and unproductive. Have any of you had loved ones who were bloodied or murdered because people simply thought they were gay? This issue goes well beyond your opinions about whether you agree with the lifestyles of people who are LGBT. It is about loving your neighbor. It is about embracing people not their lifestyles. Presentations like the ones that are going on throughout the nation are not about “embracing gay lifestyles.” They are about having tolerance for all people, even people you may not understand or relate with. The beauty of the U.S. is that we are free to live lifestyles of our choosing, as long as it doesn’t hurt others. Hate crimes hurt others. Stop the hate.

“The day I have to tell my second graders that they have to accept the gay lifestyle (ugh!) is the day I sign up for Wake Tech’s nursing program.”

– Charlotte Cow

[PAM: Tom Greene, one of the advisors at the GSA I spoke to, weighed in here]

CharlotteCow, I teach high school and co-sponsor the Gay-Straight Alliance at Chapel Hill High School- I am gay and I don’t appreciate the dialogue that you as a teacher are promoting by using words like “ugh” to define and characterize your feelings toward my life. Gay people deal with enough- we don’t need your opinions.

Your comments along with JohnPersing is the exact reason we need to have gay awareness and students being presented this other perspective. Because your attitudes, especially as teacher- facilitate bullying and harassment that you could never imagine. Education is freedom, true education facilitates tolerance and acceptance of diversity, you should know this creed as a teacher.

And, I know Mr. Piggot and he is a great teacher.

JohnPershing wrote on January, 30 5:45 PM:

TomGreene–We are all quite “aware” of gayness, thank you–you and your fellow travellers have made sure of that. Allow me to enumerate the categories of students who at one time or another are subject to “bullying” and “harassment”, ostritazation, marginalization, and even egregious violence at the hands of peers at some point as they progress through K-12: geeks, bad pimple/acne cases, devout Christians, academic stars, students with physical deformities/disabilities, obese students, booger eaters, devout practitioners of other non-Christian religions, racial/ethnic/linguistic minorities, low IQ students, criminal students, unatractive students, students with criminal relatives, students of low economic resources, and students who take politically incorrect stances to name a few. Some of these categories are inmutable, others not. Life’s a bi-ch and then you die. Get over it.

katnichols wrote on January, 30 5:47 PM:

I am in complete agreement with you, JohnPershing. Schools should maintain a “safe environment for all.” This is precisely the reason that students (and teachers like CharlotteCow apparently) need to attend awareness programs. School safety will never be accomplished without awareness programs that encourage tolerance and acceptance of diversity, and attending programs that create safe, tolerant, and caring school environments should be mandatory for all members of the school community in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students.

Sweetsie wrote on January, 30 7:57 PM:

katnichols…. I am a UNC alum and Chapel Hill was nearly as full of crazies then as it is now. I have personally intervened to keep a gay from getting his brains bashed for making an unwanted pass at a straight guy and I try to be tolerant but I do have my limits. I have gay relatives and friends. But I still regard their activities as aberrant behavior which it certainly is. It is normally occuring abnormal behavior. Gays across the country have ceased asking for tolerance and have for years been agressively pushing their agenda. They are open, obnoxious and vulgar about it. Now I don’t care what gays do behind closed doors but keep it behind closed doors and in the “closet” because it is nothing to parade around and be proud of. Just keep it to yourselves and leave the schoolchildren out of it. They are a captive audience with no say in setting school agendas and don’t belong to you to use as pawns in promoting your agenda.

And that’s why more exposure to these issues, not less, is sorely needed. I hope that this incident at East Chapel Hill High doesn’t deter the QSA from continuing its outreach in the time and space that works for both the school and the students.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding