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Exclusive vs. Inclusive Communities

March 28th, 2014 05:00:00 am


Exclusive vs. Inclusive Communities

            Right or wrong, I look to people who sought out and won positions of power and authority to be good role models. In fact, I have long thought that we should have a role model clause. It might be difficult to craft, but some aspects of it are no brainers.

 

            When I look at all the things happening in our current school systems, I see schools desperately needing to feel like they are places of inclusion, not exclusion. The teen suicide rate is up[1], bullying is up[2], and school shootings are up. Shouldn't we try to form supportive communities?

 

In Arkansas last week; Brenda Haynes, superintendent of the Sheridan School District, defended the move to excise seven student profiles, one of which included the coming- out story of junior Taylor Ellis, in a statement released Tuesday.

“We must make decisions that lead in the proper direction for all of our students and for our community,” she said. “We must not make decisions based on demands by any special interest group. The seven profiles will not be published in the yearbook.”[3]

 

 

            All evidence indicates that this young man is not being bullied, that there have been no threats toward him, and that he does well as a student. Does this decision reflect her personal views, or the views of the community as a whole? And what community is the superintendent protecting? Certainly not the community of the Sheridan School district. Not unless that community contains no LBGT members.

 

            What I see being promoted here is bigotry, permission to bully or harass, and an invitation to isolate and perhaps even force out a LGBT student. The superintendent of schools is excluding one student from being a real member of the community. By removing not just that single student's profile, but excising all of them, Haynes is sending a message that says Ellis' coming out story ruined the yearbook profiles for everyone.

 

            A decade ago, a small high school in New Hampshire was protested by the Westboro Baptist Church. The senior class yearbook superlatives declared two lesbians that year's “best couple.” Following protests from people in Kansas, the high school in New Hampshire banned superlatives altogether in future yearbooks. Clearly, the administration was not listening to the local community, who were celebrating this young couple.

 

            What I would love to find out are Haynes' views on LBGT rights. If she wants to treat all LBGT individuals as second-class citizens, regardless of age, then it would be no surprise that she would excise the profiles from the high school yearbook. But as a voice and decision maker for the whole district, should she be allowed to?

 

 


[1]   http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/1-12-teens-attempted-suicide-report-article-1.1092622

[2]   http://www.businessinsider.com/staggering-facts-about-bullying-in-america-2013-10

[3]   http://www.advocate.com/youth/2014/03/19/ark-superintendent-defends-removal-gay-students-high-school-yearbook-profile--Also image source.



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