Principal Outs Gay Kids, ACLU Steps In
by Nick Langewis
Daphne Beasley, principal of Hollis F. Price Middle College in Memphis, Tennessee, is under fire for outing at least one gay couple in her student body, according to the ACLU-backed couple and their parents.
In September of 2007, Beasley sought out couples of all kinds to monitor them for public displays of affection. She compiled a list of names, which included students Andrew and Nicholas (last names omitted), based on information she received from teachers and students; the list was clearly visible to anyone who visited her office.
Of those that saw this list was Andrew's mother, Andrea. "I couldn't believe it when I went to meet with the principal and that list was right there by her desk where anyone could see it," she said. "African American people face enough obstacles to succeeding in this world and I want my son to have every opportunity he's worked so hard for. Our schools should be helping our children do well, not tearing them down for something like this."
"This is a public high school that runs on taxpayer dollars," said attorney Bruce Kramer. "As such, it is part of the government and must obey the Constitution in dealing with the students entrusted to its care each day."
According to Nicholas' mother Nichole, the principal said that she didn't tolerate homosexuality in the school and repeatedly asked if she knew her son was gay. The honor student underwent further humiliation, in addition to verbal harassment, when taken out of the running for a class trip to New Orleans related to rebuilding efforts, as a risk to the school's image; Nicholas was told that there were fears he'd embarrass the school by engaging in "inappropriate behavior."
"This school has no business singling these boys out and taking away educational opportunities against them simply because they were dating," added Mr. Kramer.
"We never bothered anyone or did a single thing at school that broke any of the rules," Nicholas, a junior, said. "Every day I feel like they're still punishing me, and I'm worried that this is going to hurt my chances to get into a good college."
"The principal's outing of these two students to their families, classmates, and teachers is unacceptable," said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee's Executive Director. "Its only purpose was to intimidate not only these students but all gay students at Hollis Price.
"Educators," Weinberg continued, "should be focused on educating their students and not on harassing them because of their sexual orientation or the people with whom they associate."
Since private talks with the Office of General Counsel failed, the ACLU has issued a letter to Memphis school board officials today, demanding that Beasley be reprimanded, and that school policies be put in place to ensure a learning environment free of discrimination based on a student's actual or perceived sexual orientation.
Also called for is an apology to every person on Beasley's 2007 list.
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