Yesterday we talked Charlie Baca, a trans male at Irondale High School, who became Homecoming King — see post HERE; and here I thought, ‘Well, this is a step forward.’
Cue the step back … Lance Sanderson is gay; and he attends Christian Brothers High School, an all-boys Catholic school in Memphis, Tennessee. He had hoped to attend the homecoming dance, and even had a date picked out — a boy from another school — but when he asked for permission he was denied because, well, gay and Catholic don’t mix.
Administrators cited a school policy which states that students “may attend the dance by themselves, with other CBHS students or with a girl from another school” but boys from other schools may not attend “.” Lance says he didn’t know about the archaic rule and was given a different excuse when, last spring, he asked about bringing his date.
“[The official] said , and I could bring whoever I want.”
Sadly, that official left the school over the summer and now, apparently, there are rules and excuses, and wild excuses:
“I was given several examples of statistics like they said ; just different things that didn't make sense, and I’ve come to find aren't true. They said specifically as a Catholic school, they couldn't support that … and that they struggled with the idea of me taking a guy to homecoming or prom.”
The school stands by the policy, and insists that homophobia is not tolerated:
“Over the years, we have met with gay graduates who have asked about the school and we have assured them it is a kinder and gentler school and that this generation of students is very welcoming of students from all backgrounds. They are not homophobic and we are proud of their brotherhood.”
That kinda smacks of, and I'll paraphrase, Some of our best students are gay.
The school also says that they have “never let boys from other schools attend these dances as the mixing of boys from other schools in such an open atmosphere can cause problems.”
Lance has a problem with that logic, and started an online petition urging the school to join the rest of us in the 21st century. And he makes it clear that it’s been tough for him at the school since coming out as a freshman.
“It's been a tough four years for me [at the school] … and I've experienced a lot of homophobia, but now it's not classmates causing the issue -- its administrators. School officials who should be looking out for students like me, not targeting us with discrimination.”
Now, before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, I know this is a Catholic school, and I know how the Catholics feel about The Gays, and I know we shouldn’t be surprised by the school’s refusal to let Lance bring a date.
School officials refused to change their stand and so Lance Sanderson didn’t attend the homecoming dance this year, but the story doesn’t end there because now the school has chosen to punish Lance Sanderson.
After the story went viral, and after his online petition garnered nearly 10,000 signatures, Lance Sanderson returned to school and was promptly sent home, with the school saying they did not “appreciate the unwanted publicity” the story had generated and were receiving insults as a result.
Wow, it must be hard to be insulted; kinda like the way the school insulted Lance Sanderson, no?
“I am disappointed that I am unable to sit in class today. While many assignments can be reached online, I was going to take two tests today and an in class timed essay. Tomorrow at CBHS, I was going to meet with admissions representatives from around the country (they do not visit often). I hope to be welcomed back into a classroom setting soon.”
Why the punishment? Lance Sanderson didn’t do anything wrong. He asked to bring a date to a dance and was denied; he created a petition hoping the school might change its mind, and they did not. He didn’t attend the dance.
It should have been over except the school decided that since they were made to look like homophobic tools that Lance Sanderson deserved to be punished. And so he wrote the school a letter — and has yet received no response:
Dear CBHS Administration,
Today I arrived at school around 6:30am. I sat down to complete my assignments for the classes I planned on attending today. At 7:30am, I was speaking to a teacher when an administrator walked into the room and told me to gather my books and come to the office.
When I arrived at the office I was told that the administration “had 890 other students to worry about” and could not deal with me. I was told to go home for the week. I said goodbye to a few teachers and students, then drove home.
I am hurt by this exclusion. It goes against the Lasallian value of brotherhood that the school is supposed to stand for. You won’t let me dance with my date and you won’t let me go to class now either. I had hoped that today would be one for positive conversation going forward. Instead, I was sent home.
I haven’t done anything wrong and haven’t hurt anybody. I want to be welcomed back to the school building today and I want this mean-spirited semi-suspension ended, so that I can do my classwork like anybody else.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote from a Birmingham jail cell: “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
As I said, I get it that it’s a Catholic school, and so, while I find it ridiculous that Lance couldn’t bring a boy to the dance, I understand it. But I don’t understand how that simple act, asking to bring a date, results in being suspended from school.
Rather than preparing these boys for the real world, Christian Brothers High School is preparing them for a world that hasn’t changed from the 1950s; a world where being gay means you’re less than; a world where someone like Lance Sanderson can’t dance.
Hopefully, kids like Lance, and his allies, will leave this school vowing to make a change so that there aren’t any more stories like this.