Post submitted by Rhonda Thomason, Welcoming Schools’ Southern Regional Consultant.
For years, organizations like the Alabama Safe Schools Coalition and HRC's Welcoming Schools program have advocated anti-bullying policies and educator-training resources that include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Yet political roadblocks in the state have prevented passage of comprehensive anti-bullying policies.
I first learned about Bob Grisham, a Rogersville, AL, high school coach and psychology teacher, and his anti-LGBT rant to his classroom while representing Welcoming Schools at an ASSC team meeting in Birmingham.
The 2012 Coach of the Year lead a classroom conversation in which he disparged the LGBT community and Michelle Obama. Though he later apologized for his vitriolic commentary, we cannot overlook the tremendous impact his words can have on LGBT youth.
Organizations like ASSC and its steadfast commitment to helping all students stands in stark contrast to the damage an educator can reap on students in a 90-second rant.
The ASSC engages volunteers—some driving for hours and dedicating countless days—developing and providing professional learning for educators about their legal and ethical responsibilities to all youth, including LGBT students.
A 2012 Human Rights Campaign Foundation youth survey reports vast disparities between straight teenagers and LGBT-identified youth. When asked to describe their most important problem, straight teens articulated the usual challenges of grades and college and finances. On the other hand, LGBT teens’ worries were directly related to their identity as LGBT including non-accepting families and bullying. In the report, 92 percent say they hear negative messages about being LGBT – 60 percent say those messages come from elected leaders.
Insisting that educators and leaders examine the impact of their own bias on the mission of serving and empowering achievement for all children is essential. Providing safe and caring schools is the vital cornerstone for success—on and off the field.
Update: The Lauderdale County School Board voted Monday night to suspend Grishamfor ten days and ordered four days of sensitivity training.