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TN School Board Removes LGBT 'Safe Space' Posters From Campus, Claims They Were Too 'Sexual'

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 4.11.44 PMThe Rutherford County Board of Education in central Tennessee is under quite a bit of fire from the state and national American Civil Liberties Union after deciding to remove all of GLSEN's 'Safe Space' posters (pictured) from classrooms at its Central Magnet School. The reason? The school board claimed the poster's content was too 'political' and 'of an inappropriate sexual nature' because it contained the words 'lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.'

The ACLU, however, says the school board's claims are "obvious mischaracterization[s]" and "grossly misconstruing the nature of the poster." Additionally, the ACLU says that legal action may be required if steps are not taken to reverse the decision:

"Removal of these posters is a violation of the free speech rights of students and teachers," said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN Legal Director. "Permitting some student groups but not others to display posters amounts to unconstitutional, discriminatory censorship." 

GLSEN has also responded, stating that many students in Tennessee already feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, which can cause absenteeism, lowered academic achievement, and poorer psychological well-being.  88% of LGBT students in Tennessee have been verbally harassed and 43% have been physically harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation, according to GLSEN's "2011 Tennessee State Snapshot." 

"Removing a GLSEN Safe Space poster that promotes a positive learning environment free from harassment is alarming given that a majority of LGBT students in Tennessee report feeling unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN's Executive Director. "Every student deserves to feel safe in school and our Safe Space posters, a part of GLSEN's Safe Space Kit, play a vital role in conveying that very message. Students know they have an educator to turn to for support when they see our poster displayed in a school classroom or office."

The school board has yet to respond to the ACLU letter, which can be read here.

Tennessee is no stranger to silencing the voices of LGBT students and allies. The "Don't Say Gay" bill that was reintroduced in the Tennessee Senate earlier this year comes to mind...  


Thousands Arrive in D.C. to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Marchonwashington

The Washington Post is publishing live updates from today's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington:

The rally will include speeches from Attorney General Eric Holder, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Rev. Al Sharpton, among others. At 12:30 p.m., a march will leave the Lincoln Memorial, pass the memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and travel to the Washington Monument.

Live coverage here.

Starting with today's march, the nation will begin a series of events commemorating this historic civil rights moment leading up to the 50th anniversary on Wednesday of MLK Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech" at the Lincoln Memorial where Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Carter will speak.

ByardEliza Byard, the Executive Director at GLSEN, will be speaking at Wednesday's event, GLSEN reports:

Dr. Byard is the only leader of an LGBT organization selected to speak at the event.

Said Byard: “I am humbled and honored to represent GLSEN at the anniversary of one of the landmark moments in United States and world history. Dr. King and March on Washington organizer Bayard Rustin are personal heroes who have inspired me and influenced our work at GLSEN to create a better world for all. GLSEN has spent more than 20 years working to eliminate injustice and inequality directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in K-12 education, and I look forward to delivering a message of hope for a brighter future where every young person has an equal opportunity to get an education.”

GLSEN partner organizations working predominantly in the South nominated Dr. Byard to speak at the event, and the King Center selected her for the honor.

BondNAACP Chairman Emeritus, Julian Bond, in an email from the Human Rights Campaign, writes:

In August 1963, I was the Communications Director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), led at the time by John Lewis, the march's youngest speaker that day.

A gay black man by the name of Bayard Rustin was one of the chief organizers – an early embodiment of the unity and commonality that bonded the movement for LGBT equality with the fight for equal treatment of African-Americans.

In his honor, HRC will help lead a commemoration of Bayard's incredible contributions to the civil rights movement on Monday. And it was recently announced that President Obama will posthumously award Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian award in the United States.

Fifty years later, I can still feel the power of that noble, August day. Its weight is what drove me for years – from founding the Southern Poverty Law Center, to overseeing the NAACP as Chairman, not to mention the ten terms I served as a member of the Georgia legislature. And later, that exact same commitment to achieving equal rights is what convinced me to stand with the Human Rights Campaign in endorsing marriage equality.

Together we have marched millions of miles to land on the right side of history, and today we stand firmly planted, hoping only that more will join us, one by one, until everyone in this nation is truly free and equal. I know you are with the marchers today – in spirit and in solidarity – and I hope you'll follow the news coverage of today's powerful events.

(top image via david mixner, lower image via steven portnoy twitter,  8/24/2013)

2013


Department of Education to Collect Anti-LGBT Bullying Data Nationwide

GLSEN's executive director Eliza Byard reports:

GlsenJust a few minutes ago, the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education made a groundbreaking announcement – it intends to collect data in schools nationwide about anti-LGBT bullying as part of its Civil Rights Data Collection, an influential survey that is used to inform government action.

I’m proud to say that GLSEN’s longtime leadership in Washington urging the government to take action played an integral role in making this change happen...

Byard attributes the change in part to  a trip to D.C. with three GLSEN student leaders to meet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. She was told at the White House in May on Harvey Milk Day that because one of the students asked Duncan to investigate such data collection, he made the request to the department.

Adds Byard:

LGBT-inclusive data collection may seem like a wonky goal. But let me tell you, data drives decision-making, and what is measured is what is valued when it comes to government action. Liam, one of GLSEN’s amazing student leaders, secured a huge advance for LGBT youth nationwide.


Homophobic Iowa GOP Lawmaker Warns Gay People Pose Health Risk to Public Like Smoking: VIDEO

Guth

Republican Iowa State Senator Dennis Guth unleashed one of the most disgusting homophobic diatribes on the Senate floor yesterday, accusing the media of tricking the public into accepting gay relationships and claiming that they are a health risk to the general public.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

D_guthSaid Guth:

"The media, for the most part, has bamboozled us into thinking that having a relationship outside of the boundaries of monogamous, heterosexual marriage is positive, happy and fulfilling. Movies, television shows, articles and magazines abound with this theme, giving partial information to a vulnerable audience: our children."

He added:

“Just as there are multiple ways that your smoking hurts me, such as secondhand smoke, increased insurance costs, cost to society of days lost for poor health, so it is with same-sex relationships. There are health risks that my family incurs because of the increase in sexually transmitted infections that this lifestyle invites. For example there are more and more medical tests required before giving blood or giving birth.”

Guth said people should speak out against what they see as wrong:

"If I saw someone going the wrong way on a one-way street, I would make every effort to stop and redirect them."

Guth said his remarks were inspired by Focus on the Family's 'Day of Dialogue', a response to tomorrow's Day of Silence sponsored by GLSEN, in which students take a vow of silence to stand up against homophobia.

Guth cited the suicide of New York therapist Bob Bergeron in his remarks:

"Bob Bergeron was a happy-go-lucky homosexual therapist who at the peak of his career committed suicide this January. In a note found addressing homosexuality he said, 'it's a lie based on bad information.'"

MccoyOpenly gay State Senator Matt McCoy responded to Guth:

”I was frankly just a little bit taken aback by some of the things that I heard today, as I know some of my colleagues were as well... Much of what you heard today on the floor of the Senate is warmed-over rhetoric that has been invented by the Christian right, extreme groups. What I heard today was ignorant and I know where it came from, and I think that I am not gay by choice. I am not gay by choice, but I choose not to be ignorant.”

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Homophobic Iowa GOP Lawmaker Warns Gay People Pose Health Risk to Public Like Smoking: VIDEO" »


GLSEN Debunks Wingnut Linda Harvey's Lies About LGBTQ Youth: VIDEO

Harvey

Mission America wingnut Linda Harvey has a lot of lies to tell about GLSEN's Day of Silence, which is coming up this Friday, April 19. In a new video GLSEN debunks Harvey's lies and reveals some of the truths about what it's like for LGBTQ students.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Dayofsilence

Continue reading "GLSEN Debunks Wingnut Linda Harvey's Lies About LGBTQ Youth: VIDEO" »


Growing Up Gay, Matt Bomer Played Both The Field And The Stage

BomerGLSEN

Matt Bomer took the stage alongside partner Simon Halls last night to accept GLSEN's Inspiration Award and to discuss his own experience growing up gay in high school.

"When I was in high school, there was no safe haven, there was no outlet for you to speaking your mind," he said, according to E! News' Marc Malkin. "So I did what any self-preserving 14-year-old would do—I signed up for the school play and also the football team to cover my tracks."

"When that happens, when you aren't allowed to speak about who you are, one of the most authentic parts of who you are, which is who you love or is who you're attracted to, [one] feels invisible."

He went on, "GLSEN gives visibility and authenticity to kids all across the country."

Bomer's Magic Mike co-star Joe Manganiello spoke before giving the men their award in Beverly Hills, telling the couple and a crowd that included Jim Parsons and Amy Adams, "You are the example that the rest of our country needs to wake up and see in terms of equality and putting and end to the bullying epidemic and making sure that every family is respected in our schools and our society."

[Image via Just Jared]


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