September 12, 06: Be sure to read the comment and my reply to it at the end of this entry. ldd
There is always a warning message on Board that emails to and from the schools are public information. I assume all emails inside and outside the schools are public information.
How does a member of the public access these emails?
lee drury de cesare
Larry, Tiger Bay President, here is an article with an idea for a future program. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/09/AR2006090901079.html?nav=hcmoduletmv When the elections are over and the speaker choices are in the doldrums at Tampa Tiger Bay as they have been for the past year for some reason, consider having a program on negative advertising.
There must be some experts in the area. They dig up stuff for the Dirty Tricks part of campaigns.
Now a request: Bart Birdsal asked me how one got to be one of the people on the Tiger Committee. I said I didn't know but inferred picking people is random and casual. Bart said he would like to be on the committee.
I said I would ask you. Bart is the first openly gay candidate locally I believe. He ran for the School Board to emphasize the need for protection of gay children from harassment in the schools.
I call Bart's run a form of higher politics. When my Republican husband has asked me over the years when I was fighting some women's rights issue in unorthodox ways that did an end-run around the sexists, "What in the world are you up to now?" I always answered him, 'I'm practicing higher politics."
Bart and Jane Boles, the mother of a gay boy at HHS, tried for years to get the schools and Board to attend to this problem without any success. The Board and the administration either strung them along or ignored them.
I contributed to their effort by cajoling Dr. Earl the Pearl Lennard after a Tiger Bay meeting to pledge to hold teacher training on the issue.
I first had to run him down in the hall as he was making a speedy escape to avoid me. I caught up to petition the creature despite my wearing a pair of spike Manolo Blahniks. He promised the administration would hold such seminars and didn't.
This run-a-round represented the customary school-superintendent lie in Hillsborough County. I think the Board hires people for superintendent able to tell bald-faced lies with a straight face.
The first contact I had with Candy Olson involved my emailing her several years ago to complain about a gay boy's being proselytized by one of his teachers with a Bible on the teacher's desk. He told the boy that he would go to hell according to the Bible if he did not quit being a homosexual. Here's an email account of that exchange:
Ms. Olson's response: "It's been my experience that there are usually at least two sides to a story, and I'm not sure what the student requested from whom. Last time I looked, though, we didn't forbid people to quote the bible - or to express themselves in other ways."
My response to this comment from La Olson: Ms. Olson: Bart Birdsall allowed me a copy of your response about the gay boy whom a teacher proselytized with the Bible on school grounds. Otherwise, I would have secured it through the Superintendent’s office. What do you mean, ma’am, by the following statement in this email? "Last time I looked, though, we didn't forbid people to quote the bible [sic] - or to express themselves in other ways."
Bart said that the teacher harangued the gay boy with the Bible. Does one understand your response to mean that such activity on school property is innocuous quoting of the Bible? That the principal made the teacher quit this proselytizing a student with the Bible says that she must have seen it as inappropriate activity. She was right: Bible thumping should not be part of school curriculum.
Your breezy comment, however, suggests that you do not disapprove the situation. I do.
If a Bible quote, a quote from the Koran, or a quote from the Torah comes in a comparative-religion class, that use is a fine teaching tool for religious quotes.
If a teacher uses the King James version in English class to demonstrate the style and poetry of the book that taught Shakespeare to write his masterpieces, that is an admirable class use of the Bible.
If an English teacher uses the Douay Bible to compare its style to that of the King James Version, that too is a perfectly legitimate use of the Bible for tax-paid educational purposes.
Or if a sociology class uses the Bible to investigate such questions as the status of women in the Old Testament, that is an imaginative use of the Bible or any other religious text.
I would applaud students in sociology class’s comparing treatment of women in the Bible to treatment of women in the Koran. However, I submit that in the present instance we do not talk about education but of indoctrination of a student by a teacher with a particular religious view.
If a teacher corners a student on school grounds--or even off school grounds--to convert him or her with Biblical quotes to the teacher's brand of religion, particularly if the teacher’s covert purpose is to shame the student for being gay, that is not educational but homophobic religious indoctrination. I believe psychologists would call that religious coercion harmful to the child’s psyche.
Religious indoctrination is not legal on public-school grounds. The Constitution says we must separate church and state. Especially must we do so when it concerns a teacher’s purveying a particular religious view to a student vulnerable to the teacher's power.
It’s a good thing for the fiscal state of the school system that this boy doesn’t want to “make trouble” for the teacher or to name his school. He’s a good kid, and he’s scared to buck grownup authority.
If he were willing, the School Board and the school administration would have one hell of a lawsuit on their hands. Sooner or later, a gay student fed up with ignored cruelty on school grounds and not loathe to fight through a lawsuit will come along who wants to sue the school system for his mistreatment with Board and administrative sufferance.
I hear that the School Board and the administration now piously claim that they do not want to interfere with the autonomy of individual principals.
This represents either torpor or cop-out. Isn’t this the Board that recently passed a rule with only Ms. Reddick dissenting that the TV cameras be shut off during citizen comment at Board meetings? When the Board’s amour propre and convenience are involved, its members can bestir themselves to abridge even the First Amendment for the sake of their vanity and convenience, but these same people have no interest in the mistreatment of a portion of their charges—gay boys and girls--in the school system.
Something is out of whack with Board priorities, I submit.
Bart also emailed me the following: He [whether the boy in question above or another is not clear] said the teacher in charge of the yearbook did not want the GSA's picture in it. The gay student had to struggle to get his club’s picture in the annual. Does that situation not concern the Board? Or is it, too, open to benign interpretation, Ms. Olson? Isn’t the Board at least in investigating the situation? What's your exegesis of this quote?
How would you gloss this gesture on the teacher's part: as an instance of free speech and not discrimination against gay students? Would you cite it as an example of teachers' right to express themselves “in other ways"? There is a limit to self-expression. One, could not, I submit, tap dance on the desk during class. And “self-expression” should not include the sort that makes a gay student miserable.
Reading your response to Bart confirms Dr. Johnson's truism: "Let me hear the man [or woman] speak, so that I may know his [her] mind."
Your answer to Bart does not suggest that you take gay children's bullying by teachers or other students as a problem that concerns you. You appear to see it as part of the range of behavior that demonstrates acceptable conduct if only one interprets it as innocent or ignores the situation in a deliberately obtuse manner.
I expect better of a member of the School Board. Everyone should. I understand that you ran for the Board on gay tolerance, that your opponent blasted you for moral turpitude for this attitude, that you won the election by spending $50,000 in the most expensive School-Board race ever, and that you have distanced yourself from gay tolerance ever since.
This information is apocryphal. But if it is correct, I urge you to show more courage post-election. What good is it to win election and then to consent to give up any enlightened beliefs because you might lose a few bigots’ votes If you stick to your guns?
That’s not the behavior of a role model of integrity, Ms. Olson. The children are watching you.
Lee Drury De Cesare
Larry, Notable at the last Tiger Bay seminar with the Board candidates--the one at which you tried to tackle me in a harangue about time limits for the bus-driver question, which amounted to your savaging a sweet, helpless little old lady: me, one noted that Candy joined all candidates-- except one--to pledge that gay children needed the teacher training in the schools to ensure their protection from the savaging of harassment.
So Bart's run for that purpose was a triumph if they carry through.
Bart doesn't attend Tiger Bay often--just for important issues in which he is especially interested-- because he works for the school system and doesn't have the time off when Tiger Bay holds its meetings.
So the next time he shows up, let him sit on the Tiger Committee, pray. It would be the first openly gay fellow on the Tiger Committee. Then I could harangue Suncoast Tiger Bay over here on this side of the bay with, "Tampa Tiger Bay had a gay fellow on its Tiger Committee. When are y'all going to do that?"
By the way, here's some invidious information: Suncoast beats Tampa coming and going in running its Tiger Bay. I don't know why, but I know it does: bigger crowds, more prestigious guests, smoothness of operations.
You should go to couple of its meetings to see how its done. I think they had that old Pooh-bah publisher Andy What's His Name on the Board. That has more éclat than having the Dali Llama on the board for the local political consumers, I wager. This fellow's stalking around SP now in retirement dispensing blessings to the throngs of his awe-struck admirers but, one infers, lamenting bygone days in the glory position of publisher of the SP Times, when he conducted candidate interviews that scared office aspirants out of their scant wits.
If you won't put Bart on the Tiger Committee, then tell me up front so that I can rev up my rhetorical engines and launch into Phase II against Tampa Tiger Bay's hillbilly homophobia.
With all due respect,
lee drury de cesare
PS: Bart was one of those lucky gay kids not to have parents who kicked him out into the street upon learning of his gay status. His mother told him he had to be who he was. Even so, he says today he bears the emotional scars of growing up thinking he was dirty because he was gay. His being on the Tiger Committee may do something to assuage that feeling.