03 May 2008

Tennessee Principal Outs Gay Students

I woke up this morning to find this news. High school principal Daphne Beasley, Memphis TN, was tired of all the PDA happening on school grounds. (That's Public Display of Affection, for those not living with a middle/high school student. Or those of you who've escaped military influence.)

Ms. Beasley was none too pleased with the excessive PDA occurring within the vaunted halls of Hollis F. Price Middle College High School. (Middle College High School? What the hell does that even mean?) Ms. Beasley decided to take the public watchdog and humiliation route to address these nefarious goings-on. She asked her staff for the names of all student couples, in order to compile a list. All the better to keep an eye on the eager little darlings, my dear.

Problem is, she posted the list. Publicly. Teachers, students, custodial staff, la-dee-da-dee everybody could see who was joined in lunchroom liplocks. But wait, there's more! She'd also specified to the staff that she wanted both hetero and homosexual couples named, which means, of course, that The List outed some gay students.

In a high school in Tennessee.

I'm sure that made for a wonderful learning environment for the outed students. The students say they are now being "treated differently" by students and teachers. I just bet they are.

And Ms. Beasley didn't stop there. Apparently she also called the mother of at least one of the gay students, an 11th grader who'd just made the dean's list, and outed him to Moms as well.

Now, I'm all for high school kids being open with their parents. I'm reasonably sure my kids would be able to tell me should they be any version of "not straight". The Bohemian, in fact, hasn't quite nailed down what she considers herself. Whatever. Labels schmabels. But we are a progressive household in the Seattle area. There are many out gay couples in my kids' high school. I would venture to say it's not as big of a deal here for those students who choose to come out. Not that those kids don't have to deal with ignorance and prejudice - of course they do - but there is a good deal of support in this area, should a student choose to come out at school.

I'm not foolish enough to think that every family or high school environment is going to be supportive for a young gay person. The parent in me thinks yes, I'd want the school to tell me what's going on with my child, but that may not be advisable or even safe in every situation. Did that principal stop to think about the consequences of her actions in calling those parents? Did she talk to the student beforehand? Did she think about the effects on his life? You don't know how those parents are going to react. That kid could end up getting his ass beat or being kicked out into the streets. Hey, it happens, it's not that far fetched. Even if not, coming out is a big deal. How these parents experience The Big Revelation will likely have an effect on their reaction to it. I'm betting that kid would've liked to have some control about how he came out to his parents, classmates and teachers.

This student was scheduled to go on a school trip to New Orleans to help rebuild houses. After the posting of The List, he was told by a teacher that he would no longer be going, due to the possibility he might "embarrass the school by engaging in gay affection."

Are you kidding me?

What this kid wanted to engage in was some public service, being a responsible and contributing member of society, caring about something bigger than himself, building community. You're going to tell a kid who just made the dean's list and who was going to rebuild houses in a place our own president has all but abandoned, that his services aren't necessary because he has a boyfriend?
So, according to this teacher, being gay is supposed to be the negative aspect in this young man's life? What effect are those words, that rejection, going to have on this young man, on this member of our society?

You know what? This kid is not "embarrassing", but Principal Beasley's actions are. That teacher's comments are. Shame on them.

I was talking to the offspring about this story. Okay, ranting. Whatever. Teen Demon made the point that it wasn't fair to any of the kids, gay or straight. She said in her school there are kids from traditional Asian families who are not allowed to date, even in the upper grades. If those students were "outed" to their families, it could be disastrous for some of them.

Again, I'm not advocating teenagers keeping major secrets from their families, but hey, things aren't always how we wish they were. In the example Teen Demon brought up, say you've got a good student, a 17-year-old kid who has a boyfriend -- one whom she basically sees only at school -- and this kid gets "outed" simply by virtue of being "part of a couple", whether she has engaged in PDA or not, because some principal put her on a list ... that doesn't seem right.

Male Offspring wondered about kids who may be falsely identified as being part of a couple. What if the staff is wrong in their presumptions?

Seems to me that a little PDA is part of high school life. Come on, did Ms. Beasley never swap saliva by the gym lockers? Yes, there are limits, and yes, students should practice at least a minimal level of decorum. We're talking affection, not pop, lock, and dropping. If things get to that point, seems to me it still could've been handled in a more constructive way.

Seems to me the decision to come out is a personal decision, not one for the schools.


  1. I'd wager the principal was counting on the gay kids getting their asses kicked at home. Scare 'em straight!

    This is the same bitch who, after a Columbine-style shoot 'em up at her school, would look into the camera with tears streaming from her doe eyes and proclaim, "I can't understand why any of our students would feel disaffected here at our lovely little middle college high school."

  2. sonofabitch....i would for the price of a bus ticket..go to tennennesee and kick that bitch's ass...sonofabitch...

  3. So,does Ms. Beasly live in a glass house?
    I'm guessin' a little observation of her extra curricular activities might make for interesting publication.
    Fair is fair.

  4. And this stupid bitch still has her job? I read about this and why the ACLU isn't crawling so far up this womans ass that it's the first thing she sees in the morning when she brushes her teeth, I don't know.

    I'm with Granny about giving Ms. Beasley the asskicking she so richly deserves. And Sling's right. I just bet this asshole has something sordid going on in her personal life that would be just fascinating for the rest of her community to hear about.

  5. The school board (no surprise here) said she did nothing wrong. And, the ACLU is involved in the case.

    She needs to be fired. Period.

  6. This is not surprising to me, but it makes me furious. I still remember my high school years, back in the middle ages, where our choir director (a man) not only outed a member of our choir, but pranced around the choir room with his wrist cocked, and a fake lisp, making fun of the student in his absence. He was angry at Michael because he had to miss a performance, due to his schedule of classes at the tech center for our school district(for cosmetology). Yeah, it was pretty obvious Michael was gay, and yes he took a lot of shit for it. What he certainly didn't need was a teacher (insecure in how people viewed his own sexuality as a male choir director) giving affirmation to an already existent prejudice and bullying atmosphere of intolerance.

    Michael ended up leaving school early because of all the harassment he incurred. You would think that twenty some odd years would be enough time for educators to get their shit correct on diversity issues, but sadly, this story illustrates the opposite. Hope this woman loses her job, and that the kids get a free shot at college by collecting on a lawsuit.

  7. I think morally nauseating is the first term that came to mind when I heard this story. Self righteous bitch, plain and simple.

  8. Wait, I'm confused. She was concerned about PDA. So she had the staff compile a list. Based on what? Based on witnessing kids who were engaging in unacceptable levels of PDA? Or just sitting around going "yeah, I think So and So likes So and So". Because if it was based on what they were seeing around school, well, it would stand to reason that those couples weren't a secret. If the Dean's List/New Orleans kid wasn't "out" then how did he get put on a list in the first place?

    I'm slow.

  9. Her staff should have mutinied when given the order to 'make lists'... What is military-speak for " frag Beasley"?

    I was gonna ask, but Lorraine already did- how can one engage in PDA and be in-the-closet at the same time?

  10. The Witty Mulatto09 May, 2008

    And then they have the gall to wonder why queerfolks drop out of school and end up on drugs and stuff, and why so many of them have to differentiate between their "real family" and their "birth family". That's some serious child-left-behind crap.

    And yeah, you might say that people who do PDA are already somewhat out by default, but there are different degrees of outness. Lots of people are out at school but not at home, or just to some friends. It sounds like these dudes were just randomly creeping around the school spying on people, NSA-style.

    I think we should organize a rescue mission for these kids or something.

    Every time I hear about stuff like this, I go for at least a day without bitching about what a white-ass unaware high school I went to. Queerfolks were totally a fad at that school- everyone wants a gay friend there. They love queerfolks, for the most part.

    The Bohmemian knows perfectly well what she is. Other people just don't cause they don't have enough vocabulary.

  11. Oh shit, Cowbell (et al)! This is what I don't understand: Isn't there enough real pain and grief in the world to focus on? The war, AIDS, Myanmar, Tibet.... Why do people, in their small mindedness and fear, have to find ways to add to the pain in the world, to each other's suffering?

    I'm with witty mulatto - let's go rescue those kids. Thank God for the ACLU. I hope that woman gets her sorry ass fired.

  12. Whoever owns this blog, I would like to say that he has a great idea of choosing a topic.


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