It hasn’t been a good couple of days for gays or Tennessee. You may remember yesterday I posted about two gay men assaulted for attempting to attend services at a church in Tennessee. Click here to read that post.
Today, I came across another assault in Tennessee (courtesy of Towleroad). In Madisonville, TN, high school principal Maurice Moser assaulted 17 year old Chris Sigler over his decision to wear a homemade shirt in support of Sequoyah High School starting a Gay-Straight Alliance. The shirt contained the school’s abbreviation–SQHS–on the front. The back of the shirt read “Gay Straight Alliance: We’ve Got Your Back.”
The day before the assault, Moser warned Sigler not to wear the shirt again; however, brave Sigler, refusing to allow anyone to squelch his First Amendment Right, wore the shirt the following day. Moser allegedly interrupted Sigler’s class and ordered everyone out of the room. Sigler’s sister, however, refused to leave. The ACLU of Tennessee, who has taken Sigler’s case, says that “Moser then grabbed Sigler’s arm, shoved him, and chest-bumped him repeatedly while asking ‘Who’s the big man now?’ Sigler’s mother reported that when she arrived at the school, she saw her son seated in a desk with Moser leaning over him and shouting in Sigler’s face.”
Based on the ACLU letter sent to the school district, “Mr. Moser stopped his attack after a school resource officer and Chris’ mother intervened, and that Mr. Moser eventually agreed not to suspend Chris only on the condition that he leave the school grounds with his mother and not return for the rest of the school day.”
When asked about the attack and why he wore the shirt, Sigler said, “All I want is to have a GSA at my school to help stop the bullying against gays and lesbians and their friends who support them. The shirt was a way to use my voice and show my support for the club. The way I was treated shows even more why we need a GSA here.”
Sigler couldn’t be more right. The courageous young man did nothing wrong. He is a level-headed young man, who is straight but who is also tired of seeing his friends, who happen to be homosexual, bullied at school. He was simply expressing his opinion and showing his support for something he believed in. He certainly didn’t deserve to be attacked by his principal, a man whose job it is to not only oversee the education of the children at his school, but who is also supposed to protect the children entrusted in his care from any threat on the school grounds.
As an educator, I find Moser’s actions reprehensible, and it makes me wonder about the safety of all children at schools across the country. Do we as parents now have to worry about educators and students bullying our children for being different? Are the people who we trust to protect our children not going to be there for them when they are needed the most, simply because our child might look different of believe differently from school officials?
If anyone thinks this might not happen to you or your child, it just might. You see, I have personal experience with this.
While I won’t name the school, my daughter attended a private elementary school in the town where we live. When she started Kindergarten, my ex-wife and I informed her teachers of our unique situation (at least unique for our part of the world), that I was gay and that we are both active parents in her life. My ex-wife and I agonized over this issue, but we felt it was the right thing to do in case our child started to talk about it among her classmates. We wanted the teachers to be there for her and for the other students, who may have asked them questions.
Unfortunately, in our efforts to protect her, we opened her up to the criticisms and attacks of those teachers and all her future teachers at that school. She was allowed to flail academically and received no extra help though other students in her class received special attention. For three years, we thought our child suffered from a learning disability until we learned that she was being singled out (or denied assistance) because of who her father was.
Naturally, we withdrew her from that school and she now thrives in an new school environment where my private life in no way affects her life at school. The entire school knows I’m gay. In fact, my husband serves on the Board for this school, and no one cares about our private life. Their only focus is educating every single child.
Isn’t that how all schools are supposed to operate? Unfortunately for Sigler and for my daughter, it’s not always the case.