Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Homophobia strikes again

Gay-themed film cost Oklahoma teacher her job:
Gay rights groups are complaining about the firing of a rural Oklahoma high school teacher who lost her job last week after assigning a play about the 1998 death of a gay college student. But the tiny school district says the move came after the teacher held a mock "funeral" for a canceled film production of the play.

The episode began in January, when Debra Taylor showed students at Grandfield High School The Laramie Project, a 2002 film based on the play of the same name, about the murder of Matthew Shepard. The students soon decided to film selected scenes themselves for an in-class project.

Taylor, 50, knew the project was controversial with strong language, but got her principal's permission. A few weeks into it, the principal told her to stop production. After students protested, she held a 20-minute ceremony in a nearby park in which students wrote their thoughts and rolled them into helium balloons, then released them.

The next day, Taylor says, Superintendent Ed Turlington canceled the class. After she complained to a school board member, Turlington put her on paid leave and recommended that she be fired. The school board approved her resignation Friday.

Taylor says she was let go for complaining to the board member, but others say it was a result of the play's subject: homophobia. "They don't want something like this addressed in our community," says senior Matt Ebner, one of Taylor's former students.

I gathered there is a protest Friday in that community by of all entities the Westboro Baptist Church (the goons behind the infamous God Hates Fags website), along with a counterprotest. Those goons profess a kind of "Christianity" that is abhorrent and alien to me. That said, I'm sure that some of the members of the community involved are at least secretly grooving on the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church - Turlington strikes me as someone who would. My hope is that there are some students and parents in the community who will stand up for Ms. Taylor and who - in the face of I'm sure enormous pressure to be good obedient conformist sheep - will tell the bigots to take a hike. One thing I've learned in the last year with my own much different set of school-related issues is that more often than not, dissenting parents and students are hardly alone, and that one honest voice can have quite an impact - sometimes it's louder than the voices of ignorance and bigotry.

Updated: My bad. I managed to misread the original dispatch at JMBZine as regarding an action that already occurred.

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