High school sucks for a LOT of people. The tiniest, silliest differences can be called out and used as an excuse to ostracize kids and egg on bullies. Being gay or transgender is a seen as a pretty big difference and many GLBT students suffer isolation and harrassment in school.
Most of you are aware of the rash of suicides by GLBT youth that occurred across the country last year; Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota suffered THREE suicides by gay students in 2010. And here’s a heaping of extra salt in the wound: An anti-gay group consisting of anonymous members and calling themselves the Parents Action League sprouted up last July to insist that sexual orientation not be taught as part of sexual education in Anoka-Hennepin High Schools. Although their website currently appears tame, claiming only to support a “focus on core academics” and leaving the teaching of sexual orientation to “individual family homes, churches or community organizations”, the Minnesota Independent reported last August that the website promoted distinctly anti-gay messages:
It wants the district to “respect traditional family values” and to “provide valid resources for students (and their families) struggling with sexual identity and/or same-sex attraction.” It seeks to “ensure that all health curriculum teach healthy sexuality and promote abstinence until marriage.” The group also wants the district to “promote the Day of Truth” each year.
The Day of Truth is an event organized by Exodus International, a group that says it can turn gay people straight through Christian prayer.
Blech. So being gay in the Anoka-Hennepin school district probably sucked extra hard last year.
But 2011 is starting out differently, with a big, gay, FABULOUS win!
Champlin Park High School Snow Days is an annual celebration and it has a royal court – 24 students chosen by the student body become the Snow Days court. This year both women of a lesbian couple were chosen to represent the senior class, and were excited to walk together during the coronation ceremony. The school administration was less excited for them and enacted a decision to separate the court members so that they would file in individually with an adult chaperone. Speedy movement by civil and GLBT rights groups and a lawsuit filed on behalf of the couple led to a change of heart by the school, and this year the tradition of students walking in as couples will continue at the Champlin Park Snow Days celebration.
Congratulations to Desiree Shelton and Sarah Lindstrom on their victory, and thanks to them for standing up for their rights. Kudos also to the students who were interviewed by the Star Tribune who stood up for their classmates. Students everywhere, take note – Champlin Park High, you’re doin’ it right.