Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tolerance Can Cost You Your Job

A high school teacher in rural Oklahoma lost her job last week.
Big deal. Lots of folks losing their jobs right about now, so why should we care more about this one. Right?
But there's more here.

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

Taylor, no fool, knowing she lives in Oklahoma, Sally Kern country, knew the project was controversial, with strong language, and got the principal's permission. But then, after a few weeks into it, the principal told her to stop production.

When her students protested, Taylor held a 20-minute ceremony in a nearby park in which students wrote their thoughts on what was happening, rolled them into helium balloons, and then released them. That's why Debra Taylor fired; for holding a mock "funeral" for a canceled film production of the play.

The next day, Taylor says, Superintendent Ed Turlington canceled the class and 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.

Something like "this." Homophobia.

John Moyer, an attorney representing the district, says Taylor was dismissed not because she wanted to put on a play or because of the subject matter. "If someone is saying that adverse employment action is being taken against Ms. Taylor because of homosexuality, they're wrong."

What else could he say? Homophobes are just as closeted as some gay folks. They hide behind excuses and falsehoods.

Debra Taylor says she was trying to help students examine their own beliefs. "I didn't ask them to change their belief systems," she says, "but what I asked them was, 'Can you be tolerant of those that are different from you?' Many times the students came back and said, 'I don't like gays.' I said: 'I'm not asking you to like gays. But can you be tolerant?' "

Teaching tolerance can, apparently get you fired in Oklahoma.
Full story HERE


Joy said...

This upsets me so much that I can't even begin to get my thoughts together enough to make a rational comment! I'll be back.

Ray's Cowboy said...

I feel for the teacher. Trying to make a difference in the world, only to get fired. I am not asking the world to embrace gays (wi=either they be male or female), but to be tolerant of people. Like everyone is of Mexicains, Blacks, Asians, Whites, etc. AS a gay Man, I just ask that people excpt me for wh and what I am, not what I do with Men over the age of 21 and that are consenting adults. At work being a Nurse allaot fo my co-workers have ask if I have a gil friend, I do not tell them other wise nor do I walk about it flaming. That is not a part of me. I am a professional and do my job to the best I can. Now when I get home I may at times flame. Did I choose to be gay, no but it is who I am. Lik being from another country, did they choose that, no, but it is who they are. people have to wake up we, as gay people, are everywhere and most of us are very likeable.... Sorry to go on, but this makes me very upset.

frogponder said...

I thought the 'mock funeral' was a good move by the teacher. Adolescents feel things deeply and want to be heard. The teacher knew, in this instance, that a public airing of their grievances could have had a, possibly, dangerous backlash. So she channeled their energy and passion into the mock funeral. They should have held onto that teacher with both hands.

Bob said...

I agree with you all. It's shocking that this kind of thing can lead to the loss of a good teacher. Hopefully she'll move on to a place that accepts/understands/allows her teaching methods.

Now this "They should have held onto that teacher with both hands" is an absolutely beautiful sentiment. Thanks for that FP.

Beth said...

What a shame. I hope she has no problem finding another job, because she did nothing wrong. Oklahoma is definitely NOT okay lately--a friend who lives in OK told me about a story out of Tulsa, I think it was. A guy was taking his son to a hunter safety course. When they got there, the instructor asked the father who he voted for, and when the guy said "Obama," the guy told him and his son to get out, that he wasn't going to teach any liberals. !!!

Happy ending: the father complained, the instructor was fired.


Wonder Man said...

That's a shame and a mess

mistress maddie said...

This is a shame!!! I could rant and rave, but as usual this is complete bullshit. God forbid Debra Taylor open any eyes and teach a little education!

Joy said...

I applaud that teacher and am sad for students who won't be in her classes now. FP is so right about how meaningful that mock funeral was for the upset students. We call those teachable moments.

Students learned a non-violent, non-confrontational way to protest. Unfortunately, they also learned about injustice, intolerance, and punishment for trying to live the values opposite of that. What a huge shame.

Berry Blog said...

I am so glad that my system has a written policy against sexual discrimination and actually trains teachers to have "safe places' for gay students to go where they know the teacher will not allow harassment. We have pink triangle decals on our doors. the topic is discussed openly and no one seems to fear that we are teaching people to be gay. In my last years of teaching, I had a number of students "come out" to the class in their first class presentations. At the high school they are among the most popular kids- you know the kind that are said to be the center of life at the school.
that is not to say we have licked the problem. We still have our fill of hate filled people.But students dO feel safer. and students who bully are made aware of consequences.
that would be Auburn, Maine folks.