“Bullying children is wrong and bad” may sound like the most basic tenet of human decency, but if you ask conservative lobbying groups like Concerned Women for America and Focus on the Family, making it a crime to taunt someone until they kill themselves is akin to interfering with religious freedom. According to AlterNet’s Katherine Stewart, conservative groups across the country have opposed various anti-bullying measures because they say outlawing bullying is akin to state endorsement of the homosexual lifestyle. You know, Madonna and glitter and buttsex and all-women’s softball teams all that. The homosexual lifestyle.
In Michigan, lawmakers attempted to insert a provision into an anti-bullying bill that would have allowed bullying only on the grounds that it was being done based on a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” (As in, “I sincerely and morally believe that Mandy has a nutsack” or “God told me I should write “FAG” on your locker?”). That effort was killed after national outcry against it, but in Tennessee, lawmakers are now attempting to make it legal for jerkhole kids to bully other kids based on their religious preference — or lack thereof. And in Washington, 70 education and civil rights groups have backed a measure that would make it illegal for sexual orientation or gender identity to be used as basis for student discrimination. Christian groups have claimed this law would contribute to the “homosexualization” of students, notes Stewart.
This year, over 5 million American kids will be bullied at school, online, on the bus, at home, through their cell phones and on the streets of their towns, making it the most common form of violence young people in this country experience. The Bully Project is the first feature documentary film to show how we’ve all been affected by bullying, whether we’ve been victims, perpetrators or stood silent witness. The world we inhabit as adults begins on the playground. The Bully Project opens on the first day of school. For the more than 5 million kids who’ll be bullied this year in the United States, it’s a day filled with more anxiety and foreboding than excitement. As the sun rises and school busses across the country overflow with backpacks, brass instruments and the rambunctious sounds of raging hormones, this is a ride into the unknown.
The Bully Project opens in select theaters on Friday. I had hoped it would be opening in Indianapolis, but I don’t see it playing here yet. The movie was rated “R” because of the language, but the producers objected to that rating – it would mean that kids, who are the target audience, would not be able to see it. They tried to fight that rating, and ultimately rejected any rating, choosing to release it without a rating rather than accept it. Movie chain AMC has agreed to open the movie to minors.
An 11-year-old Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, hung himself Monday after enduring bullying at school, including daily taunts of being gay, despite his mother’s weekly pleas to the school to address the problem. This is at least the fourth suicide of a middle-school aged child linked to bullying this year.
In the "you have to be fucking kidding me" department — "The show's working title is "Someone's Gotta Go." Employees are called to a meeting and informed there will be layoffs, but with a reality show twist: The staff will be allowed to determine who is fired." Wanna take bets on how long it will be before someone shows up with a gun and takes out everyone?
Woodlan editorial on gays ignites firestorm
Principal demands prior review, warns teacher
By Kelly Soderlund
The Journal Gazette
A student editorial in the Woodlan Junior-Senior High School newspaper calling for more tolerance for gays and lesbians sparked the principal to seek approval of each edition before it goes to print and issue a written warning against the journalism teacher.
About 10 students attended the East Allen County Schools board meeting Tuesday night to ask members whether the issue could be put on the next meeting’s agenda. Superintendent Kay Novotny denied their request and suggested they meet with Assistant Superintendent Andy Melin instead.
Sophomore Megan Chase wrote an opinion piece – her first for the newspaper – that appeared in the Jan. 19 issue of the Woodlan Tomahawk that questioned people who believe it’s wrong to be gay or lesbian. Chase said she wrote the piece after a friend disclosed to her he was gay.
“I can only imagine how hard it would be to come out as homosexual in today’s society,” Chase wrote. “I think it is so wrong to look down on those people, or to make fun of them, just because they have a different sexuality than you. There is nothing wrong with them or their brain; they’re just different than you.”
Principal Edwin Yoder wrote a letter to the newspaper staff and journalism teacher Amy Sorrell insisting he sign off on every issue. Sorrell and the students contacted the Student Press Law Center, an advocacy group for student newspapers, which advised them to appeal the decision.
Last week, Yoder issued Sorrell a written warning for insubordination and not carrying out her responsibilities as a teacher. He accused her of exposing Woodlan students, who are in grades seven through 12, to inappropriate material and said if she did not comply with his orders she could be fired.
Yoder would not comment for this story, but Melin, who said he hasn’t read the editorial, said school officials do not have an issue with the topic but with the lack of balance and thoroughness in the opinion piece. Sorrell also should have consulted with Yoder before the article was printed, Melin said.
Melin would not comment on any disciplinary actions taken against Sorrell.
The students also asked the EACS board to clarify its policy on tolerance of gays and lesbians, which it did not address. Melin said there is no policy and didn’t think the board should have to go as far as to write one. Melin said EACS has had a policy since 2003 that states principals have the authority to review each issue of a student publication before it goes to print. It’s up to the individual principal how he or she wants to enforce it, Melin said.
According to its Web site, the Journalism Education Association strongly opposes prior review.
Prior to the editorial being published, Melin said Yoder asked Sorrell to bring to him any stories she thought would be controversial. In fact, Sorrell brought Yoder a piece on teen pregnancy that appeared in the same edition.
“I didn’t think it was going to be an issue at all. I didn’t think anybody would be upset about it,” Sorrell said of the editorial on gays and lesbians. She wrote a rebuttal to Yoder’s warning and sent it to him and Novotny.
Melin cited the 1988 Supreme Court case, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, which ruled St. Louis school officials had the authority to censor stories about teen pregnancy and divorce in its high school newspaper.
Adam Goldstein, attorney at the Student Press Law Center, said the Woodlan situation does not fall under the Supreme Court precedent, which permits a school to interfere with student expression only when it can provide a legitimate educational basis for doing so.
In the Hazelwood case, school officials were able to prove the articles went against what was being taught in the classroom.
“If students are not being taught tolerance in the classroom, their problem is much larger than this particular incident,” Goldstein said.
Yoder is practicing an illegal form of censorship, Goldstein said, and the Student Press Law Center has available attorneys who are willing to donate their time if the Woodlan students take the case to court.
Unbelievable — suggesting that gay and lesbian students shouldn’t be bullied and harassed is unacceptable in school? So that logically means the School Administration is in favor of gay and lesbian students being bullied and harassed?
Do they not realize, when they say these things, how bad it sounds? Like it’s your religion to beat up gay people?
(Des Moines, Iowa) The Iowa Senate has passed legislation aimed at curbing bullying of LGBT students and other minority groups in schools.
Language in the House version that passed lack week but which excluded religious schools was removed in the Senate. The bill now returns to the House. Democrats control both houses in the legislature and House leadership has agreed to pass the Senate version.
The issue of excluding religious schools prompted heated debate in the Senate with Republicans pressing to have the House version passed without amendment.
“There is the potential for a chilling effect on the teaching of religious doctrine through the filing of lawsuits, because of the way the bill is worded,” warned Sen. Jeff Angelo (R).
“You people have consistently raised these arguments that just don’t hold up,” shot back Sen. Mike Connolly (D) adding that in the 29 states that have passed similar anti-bullying legislation there have been few lawsuits.
Connolly reminded Republicans that the state and federal constitutions already grant private schools the right to teach religious doctrine and that the bully law would not interfere with statements of faith.