Maybe it's just me, but I think people are getting a little too sensitive these days.
Case in point: one Dakota Ary, a 14-year-old high school freshman and honor student from Fort Worth, Texas, who found himself in a heap of hot water, not to mention the national news, recently, after he was given a three-day suspension from school for making an anti-homosexual comment in his German class.
That suspension was reduced, with the help of a lawyer from Liberty Counsel, to just one day of in-school suspension, and the school district has said no mark will be made on his permanent record.
Dakota Ary's lawyer, Matthew Krause, called the suspension unjustified and said that Ary is entitled to express his opinion on homosexuality in school: "Just because you walk through the schoolhouse doors does not mean you shed your 1st Amendment rights. Dakota wasn't disrupting class. He wasn't bullying or harassing anybody. He was just stating his personal opinion on a topic somebody brought up and in a civil and respectful manner...He was stating an opinion and he has a right to do that and they punished him for that," said Holly Pope, Ary's mother, in a television interview.
The hullabaloo began in Dakota Ary's German class, where his teacher was leading a discussion of religion in Germany. One student, not Dakota Ary, asked what Germans thought about homosexuality in relation to religion, while another wanted to know the German translation of "lesbian."
Dakota Ary turned to another student, and said, "I'm a Christian and, to me, being homosexual is wrong." He goes on to explain, "It wasn't directed to anyone except my friend who was sitting behind me...I guess [the teacher] heard me and started to yell about it."
But, guess what? I think he had a right to his opinion. Now, naturally, I don't agree with him, and wonder about a religion that continues to teach bigotry and intolerance under the guise of praising god, but this is a fourteen-year-old boy. Who's to say that one day, perhaps sooner rather than later, Dakota Ary might just change his viewpoint on the LGBT community. Maybe he won't.
But, he's entitled to his opinion, as long as he wasn't hurting anyone, bullying anyone, or using his religious beliefs in an efforts to deny me equality.
Then, and only then, would I take issue with Dakota Ary. UNLESS.....
This part comes from a news story in The Dallas Voice; the paper is working on a more in-depth accounting of what happened in that class, but this is what they're saying now.
This information comes from Marvin Vann, a member of the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S., formed about a year ago to protect LGBT students and teachers from anti-gay harassment.
Vann is calling on members of the LGBT community to speak out in support of the teacher in this case--identified by Vann as Kristopher Franks--by contacting Fort Worth ISD administrators listed at the end of Vann’s post at the link that follows:
"....It now doesn't seem that Dakota Ary is just a good Christian expressing his opinion, but maybe he's a bully, surrounded by a group of his bully friends, targeting a teacher rather than another student.
Kristopher Franks, a German teacher with a long and distinguished service record at Western Hills High School, is currently being investigated by FWISD administrators, swayed by a right-wing attempt to rouse public opinion against him for having the temerity to write a disciplinary referral against Dakota Ary, a student whom Franks reports publicly harassed him in class on the basis of the student’s perception that Mr. Franks is gay. This is being depicted in numerous news reports as an effort to suppress the student’s First Amendment right to free speech. As Franks and the district cannot speak to media while the incident is being investigated by the district, only the student and his Liberty Institute lawyer’s version of the incident is being reported in the media.
The gist of these reports is that Ary, during a discussion about religion and homosexuality in his first-year German class, expressed the opinion that “I am a Christian, and I believe that homosexuality is wrong,” and was subsequently sent out of class with a disciplinary referral by his teacher, Mr. Franks, and then given a three-day suspension from an assistant principal.
Concerned that only one side of the incident was being reported, we met Friday night with Mr. Franks. His account contradicts Ary and his lawyer’s version of events, and has been substantiated by several of the other students in class at the time. We found Mr. Franks’ explanation entirely credible.
He reports (and has reported to his school) repeated acts of anti-gay harassment by several students that occurred this and last year, including by a group of four specific boys in this class, of whom Ary is one. Among other incidents, Mr. Franks maintains a “word wall” for his German IV class on which he posts articles and images from several journals, including the German magazine, Stern. One of these articles concerned gay rights in Germany, and included a photo of two men kissing. The group of four boys concerned was sitting near this image immediately before Mr. Franks found it had been ripped from the wall. The student and his lawyer are now asserting that including this photo among the others constituted his teacher’s “imposing acceptance of homosexuality” in his classroom. These students subsequently took every opportunity to denounce homosexuality in class, frequently without context; that is, with the topic having otherwise been broached.
On the particular day in which this incident occurred, Mr. Franks was opening class when the topic of Christianity in Germany was broached by one student, who asked what churches were there, another whether they read the Bible in English, etc. Franks asserts that the topic of homosexuality was not broached in any way, and that Ary‘s assertions to the contrary are entirely false. At this point, Ary declared, with a class audience, “Gays can’t be Christians; homosexuality is wrong,” looking directly at Mr. Franks. Franks says he understands and affirms students’ right to free speech, and that he is perfectly prepared to lead a respectful discussion on topics such as gay rights that allows for the assertion of opinions with which he disagrees. He has led such discussion in the past in his sociology classes. But in this case, he feels the context makes it clear that this remark was made ad hominem, aimed specifically at him to devalue him and any information he might share on the topic of religion, on the basis of his perceived sexual orientation.
The Liberty Institute, which has provided the lawyer to represent Ary, depicts itself as concerned with protecting “faith-based speech,” and has a record of fighting against the extension of anti-harassment policies to protect LGBT people. It is associated with a number of other, politically active, conservative evangelical institutions. So far, the lawyer’s efforts to whip up public sentiment against Mr. Franks have been very successful: The story has been broadcast nationally by a number of right-wing websites. Franks has received numerous insulting and threatening phone calls and emails, and after public outcry generated by these media reports, these suspensions were nullified, and the district has called Mr. Franks in to be interrogated Monday (26 Sept.) by the Office of Professional Standards, the office responsible for investigation ethical violations, though without as yet bringing any specific allegations against him.
As you might guess, the Liberty Institute tends to be very strategic in its selection of cases on which to to deploy its resources. It is likely no coincidence that it chose to represent the student only a few months after the FWISD adopted policies against anti-gay harassment.
It would be very helpful, and a grace rendered to the threatened teacher, Mr. Franks, if you and other community members would write letters and/or email messages to the school board members, assistant superintendent, and Western Hills High School principal, calling on them to give a respectful, caring, and full hearing to Mr. Franks’ side of the story. Time is of the essence: He is being interrogated by an external investigations group today, though no specific allegations have yet been made against him by the ISD. I will post their names, phone numbers and email addresses below. Please keep all messages respectful and restrained, calling simply for a fair, respectful and caring hearing of Mr. Franks’ side of the story, unswayed by the public outcry generated by the slanted media coverage. Do not go into the speculations or reports of his side of the case; that is for him to present."
No one, least of all Franks or Vann, is saying that Dakota Ary doesn't have a right to his opinion. Rather they are saying that the way he has been depicted by the press, and by his lawyers, differs greatly from the way he truly acts.
Hopefully they'll be more on this story, after Kristopher Franks is allowed to speak.
Texas teen's suspension reduced after anti-gay remark