Two Girls Kissing in School Videotaped, leads to school transfer

From a local Washington state news report:

GIG HARBOR, Wash. — Restrictions on the use of school security videotape have been tightened after images of two high school students kissing were shown to the parents of one of the girls, officials say.

Keith Nelson, dean of students at Gig Harbor High School, said he saw the students kissing and holding hands in the school’s busy commons, checked a surveillance camera and showed the parents the tape because they had asked him a few weeks earlier to alert them to any conduct by their daughter that was out of the ordinary.

They then transferred their daughter to a school outside the Peninsula School District, which lies northwest of Tacoma.

Both girls said their privacy was invaded and denied doing anything wrong. Neither was identified by name in an article published Thursday by The News Tribune of Tacoma.

The kiss amounted to a quick “peck,” said the girl who remains at the school, a 17-year-old senior described as the daughter of a News Tribune employee.

“We weren’t doing anything inappropriate, nothing anyone else wouldn’t do,” she said.

Nelson said students could not have any expectation of privacy in a crowded place and maintained that he would have taken the same action had the students kissing been a boy and a girl.

An internal investigation into a complaint from a student — it was unclear whether the complaint came from one of the girls — established that Nelson had not violated district policy, Assistant School Superintendent Shannon Wiggs said.

Even so, Principal Greg Schellenberg said, school surveillance videotape may now be used only for security monitoring and discipline for actions such as trespassing, vandalism and fighting.

Kissing and other public displays of affection were at the time and remain violations of school rules, but violators will first be given warnings and will be disciplined only for a second offense, Schellenberg said. In addition, school employees are barred from sharing surveillance video in response to an open-ended parental request.

“It’s not our normal practice,” Schellenberg said. “It’s not going to happen again.”

In the case of the kiss, he added, “the same information could have been portrayed to the family without the video.”

Nelson said he respected the change in policy but added that he believes his first obligation is to parents.

“They’re paying good money for us to make their kids good citizens,” he said. “Whatever that means to the parents, I’ll do it.”

Aside from the girls saying there wasn’t anything to it – what if there was? Who the hell are the school officials to report this to parents? This is a punishable offense? I’m thinking back to the girl I made out with in the bathroom in drama club in high school… holy crap.

That’s the problem with surveillance culture – there’s so much that can be misinterpreted from a video.

Continue ReadingTwo Girls Kissing in School Videotaped, leads to school transfer

Thoughts on the Jesus MCC Bilboard Campaign

Awhile back, I wrote about the second part of Jesus MCC’s anti-discrimination campaign here in Indianapolis, involving six provocative billboards. At the time, I said “I like it!” without putting a whole lot of thought into the matter.

Soon after that, I caught sight of one of the billboards, at 38th and College. I have to admit, it’s pretty impressive live.

billboard at 38th and college

Then Scott posted a more thoughtful response on his blog (in part):

However, the Bible IS open to interpretation, so I guess if the straight fundies are going to use it to diminish the gays, then the gay fundies have every right to use the same tool. And on the heels of solid activism that led to the stalling of SJR-7, our state’s anti-gay marriage amendment, I’m glad to see that this gay community is finally waking up and getting a little bit loud, even if some of it is being done through a church. At least there’s movement here.

Still, I can’t imagine that there’s going to be a winner in this argument, MCC isn’t going to change the minds of the likes of Miller, Bosma, Hershman, [insert name of favorite republican fundie here]. Instead, they’re either going to be even more pissed off at us or just dismiss it right from the start. And that makes me ask: What’s the point?

And after considering his thoughts, I commented there with this:

You gave this much more thought than I did – I saw the billboards and thought “Ha! That’s such a strange interpretation. That’ll piss off the fundies!”

I think there’s some value in it because it re-frames some of the debate in radically different ways, and puts the Miller crowd in the position of defending their interpretation of the bible rather than constantly using it as a weapon.

For people who think the bible is set in stone and their interpretation is the only one that exists, the idea that someone can read something different in the bible is a big problem. It’s easy for them to bash atheists – we’re just sinners. But forcing examination of scripture is something else.

Similar to what happened with SJR-7 – we were able to shift the debate about the amendment from “gays are immoral” to “that second paragraph is deeply flawed” and the fundies suddenly had to play defense – something they clearly aren’t used to and don’t know how to do.

Then for those of us who are non-believers in Christianity, we have a role to play also – in pointing out that we don’t believe in their imaginary bearded friend in the sky, and no one can make us.

Not long after that, the two of the six billboards around town were vandalized – as Bilerico and numerous sites have reported.

Defaced Jesus MCC Billboard

Indyness recently posted her thoughts on the Jesus MCC billboards – she’s very critical of the project, and it made me consider the whole matter more closely, which I’m very grateful for.

First, this campaign goes way beyond sparking debate. The minister has written a book on this subject and clearly has an agenda to push and a book to sell. He’s using the church as his platform. I hope the church signed up for this. I bet his publisher is ecstatic.

Second, there are many people in this church who are desperately seeking approval. For them, that’s what this campaign is about. Not debate. It’s about “Please, please, please accept me”. I think that the church and the community needs to address this psychological state that some members of the community find themselves in. Personally, I’m not begging for acceptance from anyone. I’m a productive member of society. That should be enough.

Third, I’m concerned about the safety of the members of this church. This church has made itself a target by doing this campaign. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take risks. I just hope that everybody realizes what they signed up for…

Indyness’ point about the minister writing a book is a new to me, and something I didn’t realize, although I don’t know that it would especially bother me – the potential market for his book is pretty limited, frankly. I’m not going to run out and get a copy because of this campaign, and I doubt Eric Miller will, either. Even if the whole campaign is just a cynical ploy to sell books, it advances my agenda, so I can’t complain.

I’m not interested in getting anyone’s acceptance. My concern is this house. Despite our careful financial and legal arrangements, if something happened to me, Stephanie would be forced to sell this house to pay off the taxes on my estate, and she would lose much of my assets that are left to her, and possibly part of her own – all because we aren’t able to get legally married. That PISSES ME OFF. It’s just not fair. My hard work should count as much as any heterosexual person’s – I worked to get this money, and my wife should be able to keep it, the same as any heterosexual person.

(Even when I explain this to my understanding, pro-gay heterosexual friends, they don’t understand it. I have to go over it again and again – when the light bulb finally goes on and they understand, the realization is amazing to them. I’m astonished that even the most liberal, pro-gay people don’t really get this point. They think the whole gay marriage drive is just about doing the right thing – they really have no idea there are tangible benefits to getting married that they enjoy and we don’t.)

The reason all of this could occur is because some asshats with their arbitrary religious rules have control of the statehouse, and they’re able to use their Bible as a weapon. I’m interested in taking that weapon away from them. Anything that challenges the lock that religion has on our legal system in this state is okay by me, even if it’s coming from the direction of challenging their belief system itself.

I know that just being a productive member of society should be enough, but if logic came into it, homophobia and religious nutiness would have disappeared long ago.

I know a few Jesus MCC members, but not as close friends, so I can’t say what their motivations are; I don’t know if they’re desperately seeking acceptance or not. I also can’t say whether they know what they’re in for with this campaign. The two members I know best are Zach and Chris – and Zach was an IYG member many years ago when I was a volunteer for that organization. From some general statements Zach has made, I have a good idea that he’s seen his fair share of homophobia, and isn’t exactly a babe in the woods.

I’m very glad that Scott and Indyness thought about this more carefully and thoroughly than I did, even though I might disagree with them on some points. I glossed over the whole thing in a pretty flip way, which was pretty cavalier of me.

Continue ReadingThoughts on the Jesus MCC Bilboard Campaign

Another Indiana Hate Crime Death

From WTHR, a story on a man who was beaten to death in Crothersville, Indiana because his attackers thought he was gay:

Aggravated Assault in a Vehicle, honor killing and hate crimes are increasing day by day. Police found Aaron Hall’s badly beaten body hidden inside a garage on Sunday. Charged in connection with the murder were 19-year-old Garrett Gray, 18-year-old Coleman King and 21-year-old Robert Hendricks. Police made the arrests after receiving a tip from Garrett Gray’s friend.

The tipster got a multi-media text message on his cell phone from the suspects. In the photo, Aaron Hall appeared with the suspects’ arms around him. Hall had a swollen lip, a black eye, and appeared badly beaten.

Police say on April 12th, Hall and the three suspects were drinking at Gray’s house. The suspects told police Hall grabbed Coleman King and questioned his sexuality. That set off the deadly beating.

“And they’re saying what’s why they killed him. Because he was gay. And he wasn’t gay,” said Thomas Hall. “I don’t know any crime on the planet that deserves that type of punishment.”

A few drug crimes attorneys called it a brutal crime. Court papers show Gray and King brutally attacked, then photographed Hall. King hit him with his boots at least 75 times. The suspects told police they dragged Hall down the steps, loaded him into Robert Hendricks’ truck, and dumped his body in a ditch. They say they went back two days later, and found Hall in a nearby field. That’s when they tell police they wrapped the body in a tarp and hid it in Gray’s garage.

The homicide has left Aaron Hall’s family horrified.

As pointed out by several local websites and criminal justice lawyers in LA, this year’s state legislature chose to kill off a hate crimes bill that would have ensured this man’s attackers received just punishment for their bias-motivated crime.

Coverage on Advance Indiana
Coverage on Bilerico
Coverage on Shakespeare’s Sister

Continue ReadingAnother Indiana Hate Crime Death

Indiana Intolerance – Day of Silence Leads to Anti-Gay Bomb Threats

The “National Day of Silence” is an annual, nationwide school event designed to bring attention to the bullying, harassment and violence directed at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered kids in school settings. I’ve tried to mention it mentioned the event the past couple of years here to promote what I think is a worthwhile event. This years’ event was yesterday. In New Castle, Indiana, the event lead to bomb threats and other violent threats, so the school had to be locked down:

But the silent protest brought threats of weapons and violence at New Castle Chrysler High School. School leaders learned of the threat with a phone call Tuesday “from someone who identified himself as a parent who said their child came home and said they heard there was going to be some violence at the school today. It gave us concern that maybe we needed to step up security a little bit today to make sure the students would be safe,” said John Newby, New Castle Schools superintendent.

From the start of class, the school went into complete lockdown for the entire day.

“They took us all to the fieldhouse and we sat there for like two hours. They took us one by one and they scanned us with metal detectors,” said Skylar Ward, student.

In the past I called protestors against the Day of Silence what I believe they are – Christian terrorists (See “Bash a Fag For Jesus“) – turns out my words are quite accurate. On the heels of the Virginia Tech tragedy, this is pretty telling about what people in Indiana are like: homophobic and violent.

Continue ReadingIndiana Intolerance – Day of Silence Leads to Anti-Gay Bomb Threats

Catholic Archbishop Doesn’t Know Difference Between Sex and Rape

In commenting on Italy’s current proposed same-sex civil unions bill, Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco revealed that he doesn’t understand the difference between sex and rape:

“Why say ‘no’ to forms of legally recognised co-habitation which create alternatives to the family? Why say ‘no’ to incest?” he said at a meeting of Church workers, according to a report in La Repubblica daily.

“Why say ‘no’ to the pedophile party in Holland?” he said.

I’ve said this many times, – it’s scary how many religious and conservative people don’t understand that bestiality, pedophilia, and in most cases incest are illegal because they are forms of rape, wherein one party can’t give informed consent to the act. Makes me want to keep my family members and pets as far away as possible from Republicans and Catholic clergy.

Continue ReadingCatholic Archbishop Doesn’t Know Difference Between Sex and Rape

Lilly Opposes SJR-7

As reported in the Indy Star (and by bilerico.com, Advance Indiana and Taking Down Words):
Eli Lilly has joined several other large Indiana corporations (Cummins, Wellpoint, Dow AgroSciences) in opposing SJR-7, the Marriage Discrimination Amendment:

“As a result of this uncertainty (over what the amendment’s impact might be,)” Murphy wrote, “some employees may choose to leave Indiana to work in a state where these benefits are perceived not to be threatened. Given the great lengths Lilly takes to attract and retain top talent from around the world, we oppose any legislation that might impair our ability to offer competitive employee benefits or negatively impact our recruitment and retention.”
In addition, Murphy wrote, Lilly is concerned the amendment “sends an unwelcoming signal to current and future employees making Indiana appear intolerant.”

Bilerico notes that the legislation is still tabled in the House Committee, and although there are rumors about when it will reappear for further discussion and votes, it hasn’t yet been scheduled.

Continue ReadingLilly Opposes SJR-7

Indiana Newspapers Against SJR-7

I was in the middle of putting this post together when Bilerico beat me to it… Newspapers that have come out against the SJR-7 marriage discrimination amendment legislation:

Continue ReadingIndiana Newspapers Against SJR-7

House committee tables SJR-7 vote

According to Bil from Bilerico:

The House Rules and Legislative Affairs committee listened to three hours of testimony regarding SJR-7, the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions. After several members of the committee commented that they’d like more time to review the testimony before voting on the matter, Chair Scott Pelath closed the hearing without holding a vote.

I’m sincerely hoping this is a good thing… I’m also hoping that if/when it does come to a vote, I can be there. I wasn’t able to take off work today because of all the stuff I have left to do after SXSW.

UPDATE: More on the committee meeting and the amendment from the Star.

UPDATE: The South Bend Tribune makes it sound much more like the amendment may die in committee.

Continue ReadingHouse committee tables SJR-7 vote

Cummins plans to testify against proposed ban

From the Indianapolis Star:

No private employers testified against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage when it was before the Senate, but that will change when discussion begins today in the House.
Cummins Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tim Solso has sent a letter to House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, encouraging him to oppose the amendment.

In his letter, Solso told Bauer that that the amendment would hurt Cummins’ ability to attract the best employees.

“Anything that makes Indiana a less inclusive and less welcoming place for our current and future employees is bad for our business — and bad for the state,” Solso wrote.
The diesel-engine maker was one of the first major employers in the state to offer domestic-partner benefits. Solso told Bauer the amendment’s vague language could affect his company’s ability to continue to offer the benefits.

Mark Land, a spokesman for Cummins, said a human resources representative will testify against the proposed amendment before the House Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee this morning.

Continue ReadingCummins plans to testify against proposed ban