Just as Superintendent Walter Dansby thought the firestorm over derogatory remarks made against Kristopher Franks,a gay faculty member at Western Hills High School, had been tamped out, another one broke out across town. It was the second major incident aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and faculty since school started in late August — in spite of a district policy against such attacks that has been called the “most progressive in the country” by gay activists such as Marvin Vann, an English teacher and the spokesperson for LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S., a recently formed organization that offers a safe haven for students whatever their sexual orientation happens to be.
This latest dust-up surrounds an email sent out by a secretary at Carter-Riverside High School to the staff there last week that called homosexuality an “abomination.” In the email, the secretary, using the district server, was upset over a group of students plan to have a “gender-bending day” during the school’s homecoming week activities. The event was planned to have some fun with gender stereotypes—but the secretary (who could not be reached for comment) did not find it amusing.
She peppered her email with passages from the Old Testament condemning homosexuality while raising concerns about causing “confusion with those who are struggling with their own sexuality, which is common for teens,” she wrote.
“As representatives of FWISD, I would hate to think we are partakers of encouraging a lifestyle, which is an abomination unto the LORD, (her emphasis) and which may not be acceptable to many parents of our children. We should strive to keep our students’ focus on academics and not what they or others are doing in the bedroom.”
Vann was outraged. In an email to this writer, Vann vented his anger at the district leadership. There has been “not so much as a reminder to the school staff that district policies prohibit using the district-owned and -endorsed email to spread hate messages against gays or other groups,” he wrote.
“It is impossible to know if [the secretary] was motivated mainly by her anger over the recently announced formation of a new Gay Student Alliance under the leadership of [a]fellow teacher. … It would not be unprecedented in this area: In Keller ISD, a Facebook campaign is underway seeking to persuade Keller High School’s authorities to shut down their GSA,” he wrote.
School board member Carlos Vasquez, who is gay, defended the administration. He told the Dallas Voicelast week that when he heard of the email and reported it to Dansby, “the superintendent took immediate action.” The offending email was removed from the server, he said, and the secretary was reprimanded. Vasquez expressed “disappointment that the incident was reported to the press by Tom Anable of Fairness Fort Worth and other gay activists. “We have already solved most of the issues and concerns [the LGBT community is] bringing up,” Vasquez said, pointing out that under Dansby, the district has been more responsive to these issues than at any other time.
But for local gay rights activist Sharon Herrera, the former diversity and sexual harassment trainer for the district before she was removed from that job by former superintendent Melody Johnson, the discrepancy between the way the secretary, who spelled out a litany of insults against gays, was treated — a reprimand — and Franks, who was the alleged object of a gay-bashing student — suspended with pay while the district conducted a full investigation — is more than telling. “It is outrageous,” she said. The secretary clearly violated district policy for both students and employees, Herrera said, that forbids language or actions designed to insult, threaten or bully students or faculty who are members of a protected class.
Franks, who is gay, was harassed, he said, for weeks by a small group of students in his German and sociology classes, with taunting remarks about gays not being able to be Christians and about homosexuality being “wrong” and against God. He finally wrote a reprimand against one of the students, and sent him to the office. The student was suspended for two days by an assistant principal, and the suspension was upheld by the principal, until the mother hired a lawyer with the Liberty Counsel, a right-wing legal group that opposes homosexuality. With a lawsuit threatened over the student’s free speech rights, the district rescinded the student’s suspension and cleared his record. Franks was still subjected to three days out of his classroom and an internal investigation. He was ultimately cleared by Dansby even though he wound up with a “letter of concern” in his file, the lowest form of disciplinary action, and was required to take a course in classroom management.
Further on the day he returned to work, one of his male students came dressed in pink with a pink garden hat on and “pranced around the room obviously mocking me,” Franks said. His principal witnessed the display of the student, and did nothing, he said.
. His supporters here, including Herrera, say the contrast between the way the secretary was treated and Franks shows just how much farther this district has to go in providing equal treatment to its gay members.
Anable, Vann, Herrera and others have praised the district for expanding the district’s anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies to include protections based on gender identity and gender expression. This week, however, Anable told the Voice, that advocates have become frustrated with the district’s slow progress in implementing training regarding the policies and in enforcing them. The fact that there have been no training sessions set up for administrators and teachers to fully understand the policies and to know when and how to recognize hate speech and to understand that expressions such as those voiced by the secretary thru the district’s email system are not allowed, led to the unfortunate outcomes for both Franks and the secretary, Herrera said. “This is a clear failure of leadership,” she said.
“They are talking the talk, now we want them to walk the walk,” Anable told the Voice.
With that goal in mind, Herrera, said, representatives of Fairness Fort Worth will meet with Dansby next week to discuss how to help the district implement training and enforcement programs for the newly adopted policies.
It is one more issue on Dansby’s plate, that is now looking more like a platter large enough for the Thanksgiving bird.
These are moral issues among staff members. The district is in a serious embarrassment in the academics. The first district Curriculum Based Assessment (CBA) is showing that students are not making any progress. Don’t forget that the people who are leading the district are demonstrating their incapacity to improve the academics. The first round of results are deplorable and the central administrators are insisting to repeat the failing strategies used in the past. Who would turn the attention to the students’ performance? What is happening with the academic is a crime, and this crime is affecting the majority of the students in this district including the gays or lesbians.
They want to control bullies with a poster, a wristband and an unenforceable policy. Then believe that bullies will disappear. Now sex orientation and its social implication is now the center of controversies in our schoolhouse. You need to add the controversy of the maps for the next election.
FWISD will go through difficult challenges because the Board Members are not even discussing the major issues that affect our children. Mr. Dansby could be a man of character but we are convinced that he is not the right person for this job. He was presented by UEA as the leader of salvation and defended by some board members who might have a hidden agenda. We have dysfunctional Board members who just want to have the spotlight.
We are demanding the removal of the central administrator who have shown and continue showing incapacity to improve the academics. IT IS OUTRAGIOUS WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR CHILDREN. We will protest. INSANITY, INSANITY, INSANITY. We are tired of this.
As with today’s Startlegram article on hiring teachers outside the budget, isn’t this yet ANOTHER Sylvia Reyna disaster? One right after the other………..
EXCELLENT article. The main issue is the difference of how each employee was treated. FWISD needs to understand the importance of training people properly.
As a district teacher, I know I have not received any training regarding the new policies.
These “moral” issues are becoming more of a life and death issue. Latest gay-teen suicide:
Justin Aaberg — 15
Asher Brown — 13
Tyler Clementi — 18
Raymond Chase — 19
Seth Walsh –13
Billy Lucas — 15
Lawrence King — 15
Zach Harrington –19
Aiyisha Hassan — 19
Chloe Lacy — 18
Corey Jackson — 19
Terrel Williams — 17
Brandon Bitner — 14
Jamey Rodemeyer –14
Jamie Hubley –15
Complacency is DEATH!
We must realize this is the 21st century. Did anyone watch Waiting on Superman? Did anyone in the administration pay attention? The city has progressed, but the school district is failing and our city’s children are paying for it with their lives. Too many promises, too many cover ups, too many lies…for self preservation and personal agendas. It is beyond civil rights and protections- it is about HUMAN RIGHTS!
Thank you, Betty, for this information. Now that Carlos Vasquez has decided to run for Lon Burnam’s seat in the legislature, he is also running away from his gay identity and constituents. Of course, the Star-Telegram can be depended upon to either ignore or completely distort this issue (any time now, we can expect a story in the S-T on how the Carter secretary is a victim of gay bullying).
As a teacher retired from the FWISD, I can assure you that homophobia is inherent in the culture and widespread among the personnel of the district, just as it is in Fort Worth, Tarrant County, and Texas.
Nothing ever changes.
With almost 20 suicides in our school district, it is imperative that Sharon Huerra is returned to her position training all administrative personnel and teaching staff on FWISD district policies. And if Fairness Fort Worth cannot achieve a compromise, I suggest you report the district to EEOC. Superintendent Dansby has plenty on his plate without the FEDS fining the district.
If the district has a progressive policy related to sexual orientation, sexual harrassment and appropriate behavior for staff and students, it should be implemented.
And parents lighten up. Our kids attitudes have changed dramatically from when we were in school. Most teens talk openly to each other but wouldn’t sit still for “the talk” from us.
Roy, how am I running away from my gay identity and constituents? Our school district and this board has some of the most strict policies against discrimination including that of our LGBT students and employees. There will always be people who violate these policies and they have been and will be dealt with.
By the way I am on my way to Reflections to see the Rangers play. I do not often or ever see any other elected officials at our gay establishments.
Carlos who cares if you are going to reflections? It is a known fact that all you do is hang out and get drunk at bars. Not what I would want for a state rep! You are the biggest bully we got on the board. Roy knows what he is talking about. Here is to you losing!
Herrera is not all that. As an employee I attended one of her training sessions and it was a joke.
She only cares about gay issues. Discrimination of all kinds permeates the fabric and culture of this district. Is not just about the gays. Of dire importance the huge gap in the achievement gap.
I’ve been biting my tongue here of late; I’ve stepped back from commenting on any articles, simply because I have been fed up with so many people lying!!! Mr. Vasquez, you sir, are tap dancing around the real issues here! You are now, and have always been, a politician in the making! I believed in you as “one of the good guys” on the board, but not so much anymore! You say FWISD has the strictest policy against LGBT discrimination, bullying, harassment, and what not; however, what happens afterwards? Who listens to these people’s complaints and follows through (honestly)? Do you think the OPS dept has a good reputation, enough to handle complaints of ANY kind, much less those affecting LGBT’s? How about that wonderful” illegal dept.” we have under the direction of Whatley? WE know how virtuous she is at handling complaints of sexual harassment! How about those two-faced administrators at central? Do you really think they care if a straight or gay person is discriminated against, bullied and so forth??? No sir, they don’t care; otherwise, they would have put their money where their mouth is by now and implemented an internal policy/dept. that could handle those complaints, with the victim’s best interest in mind! Like it is now, Dansby and his cabinet of morons “discuss” the issues/complaints amongst themselves; they are the sole judge and jury! Oh yeah, it looks great on paper, but it’s worthless if you don’t put those words into action. It takes outside LGBT advocacy groups to help the victim (s) receive some semblance of support. And even then, administrators and Dansby try to brain wash the victims, by convincing them that they handled their concerns expeditiously!? Give me a break! They sweep the crap under the rug as usual, in order to fend off negative press; they make false promises they can’t and won’t ever keep. Oh they handle those concerns quickly; it’s what they do next that bothers a lot of people, which is usually NOTHING! What good is this “policy” Mr. Vasquez, if there are still employees of this district suffering; whether they are gay or not, at the hands of their perpetrators and a failed reporting system?
And while I am on my rant; I tell you, I am so SICK and tired of hearing the districts use of the word “transparency”! You all don’t know the meaning of the word! Why else have we had a failed school district so far? Why else is there another budget shortfall in the tune of almost 14 million??? Why else would you all allow a zealous and calculating employee, such as Reyna, remain the chief of admin, when she went behind your buddy Dansby and created that lame policy of “unscheduled absences” on the heels of screwing up the budget/staffing issues? Is this being transparent to the taxpayers who inevitably pay for these budget shortfalls?
Wow, “transparency” IS alive and well alright! And if you believe that…I can sell you a lovely waterfront property in the swamplands of Florida! Unlike that old crotchety closeted trustee, who said at the board mtg, “We don’t need to point fingers at whose fault it is for these costly mistakes”, well, I don’t have a problem doing that for her and point all of my ten digits…to REYNA! She has been the mastermind behind a lot of the botched up affairs, since day one of her evil presence in our district! Who does she have by the short hairs, enough to still keep her job amidst all of her F’ups? I shudder to think this is her plan of either revenge, retaliation or all of the above, for not being assigned interim super! YOU all, the board, have allowed this, just like you allowed Johnson to operate from her vault of secrecy for 6 yrs!
And as a side note in speaking about liars: OMG, will someone please play the video from yesterday’s board mtg back to Ms. Crotchety trustee, so she can see she is so damn senile and needs to go to some retired home for closeted crotcheties! She is the one who is the liar and dishonest fool! Oh trust me; there is a lot of that pie to go around in our district; however, for her to sit and deny calling someone, such as Dansby, “non-transparent and dishonest”, which she did…that’s like the pot calling the kettle black! I am not a big fan of Dansby, but I applaud him and his cajones, for standing up to her like he did! She actually had the audacity to come back at him with a “whatever”!? How rude, dismissive and childish is that? I was just waiting for crotchety to come back and say “I know you are, but what am I?” And I ask myself the following question over and over, amidst all of the corruption that has surfaced about this district: When is Satan himself going to rise from the bowels of hell and say “Okay FWISD administrators and most of the board…you can come home now!”
In closing and back to you Mr. Vasquez; please don’t humor me and the other readers with your political agenda and useless speech about “not seeing other elected officials in gay establishments.” You meant gay bars didn’t you??? Maybe most officials don’t have the drinking problem you have! Perhaps they are home, trying to figure out an honest way to beat you on the next election, by researching the issues that face the community, unlike you drinking shots of Patron and having bar flies mesmerized by your candor! You are one self-absorbed person for sure, especially when you give yourself all the kudos for “wanting to help” the Hispanic voters and your claim for voting for the re-wording of the sexual orientation policy. I am ashamed to say I started to be on board with you, to the point I would vote for you! Now, I am embarrassed by you and how you represent, not only FWISD, but our community…our people! So please, don’t come on these blogs and make yourself sound like a victim, because you are far from it! You have a hidden agenda like the rest of those malcontents on the board! If you want respect sir, look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and ask yourself…have I done the right thing today for the many people I claim to represent…gay, straight, transgender, Hispanic, etc.? If you can’t answer this question with an affirming “Yes” in 2 seconds or less, and sleep through the night (not by an induced alcohol binge either), you don’t deserve support, much less pity, when someone blasts you on these and other comment sections!!! In my eyes, you are no longer the “Little Red Riding Hood”, but more like the big bad wolf!
Wake up and smell the “gay suicides”! I don’t know which trainings you attended, but the ones held on my campus were extremely useful and eye-opening! I know Herrera as a professional and on a personal level; she is about equality for all, not just LGBT. If you don’t know what her job used to be, don’t say you do when you don’t know! Perhaps you immediately blinded yourself and shut your ears down, when she mentioned bullying issues affecting gay students and/or employees of our district. Perhaps you are one of those bullies, who teeters on self-deception. Whatever the case may be, you are the reason why Hererra did the job she did, to make others aware of the hate, discrimination, retaliation, bullying, and so forth, that we encounter on a daily basis in our district. Did you read the article about Franks? Did you actually read the article above about the woman in our district professing her Christianity through lenses of ignorance and hate? THIS is exactly what is wrong with our district…our town…our world! TOO much hate going around, not only for LGBT’s, but for all of those who are different! Pick up a paper every now and then Ethers!
I will immediately grab your rss feed as I can not to find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Kindly permit me know in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.