Monday, July 20, 2009

Local School Board Election

The local school board is something I do not follow; the elections even less so. All I know is that CPS, for the most part, gets really bad press. Whether its deserved or not, I do not know, as I am not a product of that system. Charleston County (SC) School District got bad press, too, but there were enough bright spots within the system to make it a worthwhile education.

It's only recently that I've begun to pay attention to school based LGBTQ issues, not only due to the media regarding bullying, murders, and suicides of queer kids in middle- and high-schools, but because of the tireless advocacy of the local GLSEN organization.

I have not yet done my research on all the candidates, and I am only aware of one person running for the CPS board -- Jason Haap, local activist, editor of the Cincinnati Beacon, and friend to this blog. Haap is hugely LGBTQ-friendly and has come to me on a couple of occasions with questions regarding the local community and how he, as a supporter, can be (well) more supportive. When he announced his campaign for school board, after stirring up a little trouble (as only he could :-)) by announcing a mayoral race, he sent me a message on how a curriculum could be more LGBTQ-friendly.

I checked out his website (via his Facebook group) a few days after that conversation, and this appears there:
Other elements, like anti-bullying efforts and recognitions of excellence, should be linked into the curriculum more particularly. Anti-bullying should not be reduced to random pull-out programs with guest speakers, but a district wide policy should make reporting and follow-up more user-friendly (such as accepting information via email, text, and so forth). Those students who do something spectacular should be recognized more regularly for acts of excellence, and the district should partner with the City of Cincinnati and area media to promote excellence as a strategy to improve the schools, the neighborhoods, and the City as a whole.
I think I just made myself a brand new goal for the 2009 elections: get all the school board electors to make strong anti-bullying statements in their platform. Do you think that's feasible? (Don't worry, GLSEN, you'll be hearing from me first :-).) I have made endorsements in past elections. I think, now that Cool Summer is over, I may spend my time on the 2009 local elections so that you, my dear readers, can have a better view of who is on our side and who is not.

Can we make CPS a more LGBTQ-friendly space? Is it already? What are your experiences?


topher said...

however..anti-bullying legislation can be a slippery slope. sure you can "crack down" on bullying, but how do you define that?

what's harmless joking between you and me could be emotionally destructive to someone else.

also, is it really a school's responsibility to "make" people more open, accepting, or whatever character trait you believe is right? (and i'm not saying those aren't admirable traits.)

is not the purpose of education to put forth the facts as they stand? by telling people what to think, then we lose the whole purpose of education, to allow people to think for themselves.

i would suggest going beyond a selection based on "anti-bullying" and seek his knowledge of:

a)current national and state legislation and how it affects the local district
b)the amount of work required by teachers and administrators
c)what research-based and accountable methodology works in educating students

etc etc etc...

taking on anti-bullying is like a state/national politician saying "i want to improve education." it's a duh moment.

Unknown said...

If I remember correctly, we (GLSEN Greater Cincinnati) have a broad reach fo about 20 GSAs in the area, but none (maybe 1 or 2?) in CPS. Lots of work to go... But some schools have shown interest, so I'll be working with them this school year (Hughes included).

Someone said...

topher wrote: "is not the purpose of education to put forth the facts as they stand?"

It is a fact that no one should be victimized by discrimination and bigotry.

Unknown said...

So, topher (aka, "my brother" :-)), if it's not such a big deal, considering the rash of recent assaults, murders, and bullying-related suicides in schools...

...shouldn't be all that much to ask an official to make the statement, eh?

Doug said...

Topher: *saying* you'll take on bullying is a duh moment. Actually taking it on is a harder and longer process...

When GLSEN talks about working to end bullying in schools, we're not talking about thought control or anything like that. It's about providing a safe space for kids to learn. That means, very clearly, no harassment and no violence.

What's harmless teasing to you and me is, well, harmless teasing between us. The biggest step in creating a safe learning environment is teaching teachers how to make those judgment calls, then giving them a certain amount of discretion in how best to intervene. Bullying is a case-by-case phenomenon and needs to be treated as such.

None of this has anything to do with telling people how to think! Just like any other decent rule, it's about channeling thoughts into constructive, rather than destructive, behavior. You're allowed to think being gay is wrong, for example, but you're not allowed to trash "the fag's" textbooks as they're walking from class. You're not allowed to draw obscene pictures on "the dyke's" notebook. Isn't doing that the same as what you're decrying: limiting the free expression of another person by force, threat of force, or humiliation?

And before you say that we already have rules against that sort of behavior, let me tell you very clearly: no we don't! We have vague guidelines that read like kumbaya lyrics with no clear procedure for enforcement or even appeal. It's an utter mess.

topher said...

"It is a fact that no one should be victimized by discrimination and bigotry." - Agreed.

"if it's not such a big deal," - Didn't say it wasn't a big deal, not at all. if you think back (or maybe I didn't tell you), i received my fair share of bullying.

as you said (too long to quote), you have teach teachers about making proper judgement. which means guidelines. if you set down a "rule" in a handbook that says, "this is bullying," then if a situation arises that is not in that rule, you have wiggle room. which requires another rule.

you're has to be a case-by-case basis.

i think the point i was trying to make was getting one school board member elected to a board of # members won't change the system as a whole.

guidelines, rules, regulations, punishment, or however you lay it down provide protection. which is a great and wonderful thing!

however, what must be changed is a mindset and an attitude towards other people. b/c you can say "don't write hate words on the notebook," but districts REALLY struggle with jurisdiction once that kid is at home or walking down a street on the weekend.

so is it admirable he sees it as a concern and it's directed at a community which i support? Yes.
do i think it's an issue that needs to be addressed? Yes.
do i think bullying is ever going to go away? Probably not.
Should protections be provided? Absolutely.

i just encourage a deeper look into the issues and the knowledge surrounding the education of children.

Anonymous said...

facts are objective and empirical; freedom from discrimination is an opinion based upon principle.

I don't think (opinion) Jason Haap should be elected to the Board of Education based upon his substandard grammar and spelling (fact).

Anonymous said...

Jason Haap does not have substandard spelling and grammar.

Anonymous said...

im totally with topher on how difficult it would be to really "crack down" on bullying, as it continues after the school day is over, and even happens over the internet. i also agree that the statement "crack down on bullying" is very broad and i would like to hear exactly how one could DO that. as topher pointed out, you can make the rules at school, you can enforce them to the fullest extent, but YOU CANNOT CONTROL WHAT GOES ON OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL.
also, what is joking and playful to one person may be hurtful and emotionally damaging to another. as a high school student myself, i have said things that i meant as a joke that were taken the wrong way, and have heard things about myself that were hurtful, but not intended to be so. to reiterate, bullying is a tricky issue, and many things have been tried before to limit it. it seems impossible, however, to change the actual mindset of the kids. this would become an issue concerning how parents are parenting and household rules and manners. it seems like the answer lies primarily in the parents, not in the schools. most bullies bully because of some self-esteem issue where they feel like they are lacking. this can be an effect of verbal abuse in the home or school. its a difficult issue.

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