I grew up in Missouri and have attended Missouri public schools all my life. This fall I am getting married to my girlfriend of 6 years. This fall will also mark my third year teaching in a public high school, and my second year as the sponsor of the only gay-straight alliance (GSA) club at the high school in my hometown.
As a teacher, I feel it is my job to not only educate, but to provide a safe environment for ALL students. Through GSA and “Safe Space” posters for teachers, our school has become a safer place for kids. House Bill 2051, currently making its way through the Missouri State legislature, would require us to end our GSA, and tear down those “Safe Space” posters.
The "Don't Say Gay" bill would ban discussions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in public schools. As written, HB 2051 "prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation in public school instruction, material, or extracurricular activity except in scientific instruction on human reproduction."
Teachers frequently hear students hurl insults and comments at each other using perceived sexual orientation as a basis. This form of bullying can be especially hurtful, and in some cases, dangerous. But this bill does not seek to end bullying. In fact, it is guaranteed to exacerbate the issue by preventing teachers from being able to deter bullying in our public schools. And because the bill also extends the ban to extra-curricular activities, it will likely eliminate gay-straight alliances (GSAs) school clubs altogether.
It's an outright attack on gay students that will not only make school more difficult for them, but possibly more dangerous, too.
Nine out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students experience harassment at school, according to GLSEN's National School Climate Survey. And tragically, these students are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
By silencing students and teachers from having an open dialogue about gay issues, schools are further stigmatizing the community, making gay students even more of a target for bullies, while simultaneously tying the hands of teachers from stopping anti-gay bullying.
Our students deserve better. This bill mimics what's already been pushed by the Tennessee state legislature. We must stop it in Missouri before it spreads to more states. Please join me in urging Governor Jay Nixon to publicly oppose this dangerous and discriminatory legislation, and pledge to veto it.
High School Teacher / GSA Sponsor
Photo credit: Jennifer Moo