Jason Lawrence Bell
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06-15-19 Students Respond

06-15-19                    AUDIO AVAILABLE SOON

‘How will we know if there is no response and no one answers?’ Asked a teacher to the school administrator. ‘We’ll make it mandatory’ answered the administrator. They had just finished plans for a questionnaire to ask the students about proposed rule changes to dress codes and social media posts. A faction of students had made formal complaints that another group of students were aggressively attacking them thru clothing and social media posts. Apparently, some students have begun wearing t-shirts with offense phrases and creating Facebook sites that display photo shopped pictures of students undressed or doing offensive acts. The targeted students are gay and transgender kids and the school was a rural section of Riverside.

Even the school administration has acknowledged that the attacks have been getting more brutal and parent complaints can’t be ignored any longer. So, the questionnaire is the beginning of a dialogue to find solutions. The parents of the gay and transgender students don’t believe a dialog is needed. They conclude that the clothing and posts are hateful and wrong and needed to be stopped, not discussed. This approach seems to assume the reasons behind the actions could justify the cruelty.

But the school was careful. It knew they had powerful parents and even teachers who sympathize with anti-gay and transgender students. The questionnaire gave the public the impression that the school was addressing the growing problem without really doing anything. Since the questionnaire was a mandatory action that each student had to filled out, the school could tell who was pro and anti. Plus, they also assumed that the parents would be behind the students answers and the school could determine parental opinions.

When the questionnaires were returned and tallied the school was mostly surprised by the results. Only three of the 600 students supported the anti-gay student actions. And those kids were from a conservative religious family and were the ones wearing the offensive clothes. The administration knew there were many more anti-gay and trans parents, but the kids weren’t voting like their parents.

The administration reluctantly published the findings and waited for a response. The parent’s response was swift. Especially the anti-gay parents demanded an explanation. The questionnaire must have been rigged because their kids would never support perverted people.

The administration decided to have a school general meeting where all parents and faculty were invited to speak about the questionnaire. Mr. Stanley was the head of the English department and arrived early to the meeting and posted essays around the room. Nearly 600 essays. As the meeting began the Principal spoke about the questionnaire and how the questions were decided and how the results were carefully counted for accuracy. Then he acknowledged his own surprise at the results and said the next speaker would help explain. Then he introduced Mr. Stanley.

Mr. Stanley began, ‘the English department recognized conflicts facing the school and the limitations of the questionnaire to truly explain how the students feel about the subject of gay and transgender treatment. So, we asked each student to write an essay to put into words how they think the issue should be handled. I have posted the essays around the room. Please take the time to read them. I will read highlights that I feel we’re generally held opinions from the whole groups.

The Stanley walked the room reading samples from essays. ‘My best friend told me he was gay last year. I’m not gay but he is still my best friend. He is still the same great guy’. Mr. Stanley moved on, ‘my parents really don’t like gay people and they are disgusted by transgender. I don’t understand why. My gay friends are cool people. I refuse to hate them.’ Moving on, ‘I watched my friend go through hell. She was so afraid that her parents would hate her if she told them she was gay. She could not help being gay and only I know she is. I keep her secret. I love her so much.’ Moving on, ‘god gave me this body and this sexuality. But my church and parent would be repulsed if they found out. I cannot wait for the day when I can move somewhere where I’m accepted. I hate hiding.’ Moving on, ‘I grew up with these gay and transgender kids. I see the pain they are in and they are good people in a bad situation that they cannot control. My parents are wrong. I swear to god I will not hate like my parents.’

The parents began walking around the room reading essays. You could tell they were looking for their own child’s essay. But they also read others essays. After a while the room emptied as parents finished reading. What the administration feared would be a loud and disruptive assembly, instead was quiet and finished without incident. What was more surprising, the next day all social media anti-gay and transgender sites were shut down and the offensive clothing was never seen again. No one really knew if minds were changed, but hateful actions were stopped. Peace