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Scotts Valley High's students and teachers speak out!

Can a "Community Come Together Through Their Differences" ?
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Monday night the Student Union was packed. Parents, students, teachers, administration, community members, and concerned community members found seats and filled the ailes and doorways to capacity and beyond. Administrators from Brook Knoll, Vine Hill, Scotts Valley Middle and High Schools, Santa Cruz City Schools, and others came to hear about Scotts Valley High School and what one parent and local corporate media have taken to call its "Gay Agenda."
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After hearing the evening's format, an explanation that the Board would make no decision but only recieve public comment, a presentation by attorney Richard Noak gave the legal framework with respect to rights and responsibilities of schools, teachers, students, and parents.
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Then we heard from Don D'Andrea, a parent who seems to be at the center of the controversy. He gave a presentation outlining his complaints, following a handout that had been circulated (reprinted below). His basic issue is that high school students are a "captive audience," unable to escape from information posted in the classroom that "supports homosexual practices." He demands that single-focus material supporting safety and respect for the GLBTI community be removed and posted outside the classroom, where students can, in D'Andrea's words, "choose not to view them."
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He also demands that the Queer Youth Leadership Awards not be announced in the classroom.

D'Andrea's attorney, Snyder, then proceeded to alternately put his foot in his mouth and win loud applause. His remarks insinuated that the word "homophobe" is a slur, like "fag" or "dyke." He said he saw a Martin Luther King Jr. poster in the classroom as "crass tokenism," that he wanted the discussion of homosexuality to be taken out of the classroom and into open debate, to be put "in the public forum." He accused a Scotts Valley High student of defamation and attacked his journalism in the school paper, leading to a short exchange with the student, and then accused the school of being "borderline" with respect to enforcement of free speech protections. There was some discussion of "Reverse Intolerance" with regards to students who feel that homosexuality is morally wrong.

A group of students then presented some information about the National Coalition Building Insitute, which has worked with students and teachers alike to bring issues of safety, communication, respect, and privilege to the school in a constructive way. Although the conflict in its current incarnation seems to focus on the posters, stickers, or flyers that are or were in classrooms at SVHS, there seems to be a broader resistance to other proactive actions that the school has taken to deal with homophobia and issues of safety and free expression. There has been staunch resistance from some parents who do not want such discussion to take place, for fear that their children will be negatively influenced by hearing from a Triangle Speaker, for example.

But after hearing from several administrators, two lawyers, and the parent leading the charge against pink triangles, the heart of the matter and the heart of the community opened up as students were invited to the microphone to comment. It was truly amazing and inspiring to hear from the students. One student spoke of the Star of David around her neck and referred to a pendulum swinging to one side or the other, and expressed her fear that on one hand she might not be able to wear that representation of her religion because of restrictions on free speech or religious freedom. But she went on to explain that she is fearful as well, that the pendulum might just as easily swing to the other side, where she is required to wear the star to identify her as Jewish, mirroring Nazi Europe.

Students, parents, teachers, and community members came forward to give voice to their concerns: that they'll be teased and harrassed for speaking out, that they fear being called homophobic for proclaiming the belief that homosexuality is immoral, that they do not want sexuality to exist in the high school classroom, that it is impossible to remove sexuality from the high school classroom,... Some people supported D'Andrea's proposal that posters be moved out of the classroom and onto public bulletin boards, others explained that the history of vandalism and disrespect for the queer community remove this as an option. And so it was: back and forth. There were reminders of why the "Safe Space, Safe Person" signs are so important: No one mentioned being threatened or intimidated simply because of being straight. Articulate, respectful dialogue was represented in rare form.
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By far the most moving and important words came from students and from teachers. They spoke of the need for open dialogue and education about issues regarding safety and respect. They spoke of the ways they have gone about creating a space for this dialogue and education. They showed that there are problems at the school and that the faculty and administration have identified ways that they can and should be dealt with. They spoke of vandalism, intimidation, fear, violence, name-calling, intolerance. They spoke of communication, solutions, encouraging discussion, education, and dialogue. In short, they demonstrated before the large assembled crowd that they are doing their jobs in a way that deserves our applause. There are simply some who continue to both deny their concerns and to attack their solutions for the problems. Given the number of swastikas teachers have been erasing from their walls, slurs they have worked to remove from their classrooms, and students who have come forward seeking support, the need for proactive attention to issues of intolerance, hate and fear is at this point undeniable.

I left the meeting feeling like the people who spend their weekdays at Scotts Valley High have it under control--that the teachers are doing their jobs, that the kids are getting an education, and that what must happen is that the School Board must listen not to lawyers, but to the students. The question then is whether they support the administration and faculty of SVHS in their work to protect GLBTI students and support dialogue about intolerance, or whether they will dictate how and where teachers can intervene on behalf of a community under attack.
 
 


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Comments

Re: Scotts Valley High's students and teachers speak out!

interesting how noone seems to care about the "captive audience" in the classroom being indoctrinated with patriotic, jingoistic nationalism...
 

Re: Scotts Valley High's students and teachers speak out!

Great coverage, Danielsan! I like your fairness and the pictures in this article.
 

Re: Scotts Valley High's students and teachers speak out!

How would these fundi-wahoos like it if we all complained about their anti choice churches spewing anti-women, male supremacist blather?

How about if we complained about their public displays of torture/execution devices that they love to put on top of their wahoo churches?

If Jesus came down to earth today and was treated the same way, would electric chairs be their logo?

If they want to believe in "god" or santa claus, fine, but they dont have the right to ram it down everyone elses throat.

If they want their religious beliefs tresspassing on the public domain, then churches should not be tax exempt. Imagine the billions that Calif could collect if these **religious freeloaders*** were taxed like everyone else.

They want to control everyone but expect others to tolerate their intolerance.
I AM SICK Of THEM!!!!
 

Don D'Andrea's handout and presentation

Supporters of D'Andrea's threatened lawsuit, proposals to remove "Safe Space" stickers, and discomfort with having homosexuality pushed on his son (through messages like "Respect All Families") passed out this handout
A few points:
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p.2: "CONCEPTS WE SHOULD ACCEPT" is a little, um, overbearing considering the audience (teachers, etc.).
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p.3: There seems to be some confusion, the demand we kept hearing is that the SVHS staff respect the already developed antipathy towards the queer community as morally or religiously based, but nonetheless already developed. Thus we should respect their already developed opinions. Yet at the same time we kept hearing that students will be unduly influenced, that they are a captive audience that cannot escape when teachers throw homosexuality in their faces. Thus we should respect that their already developed opinions cannot be challenged.

So which is it? Are we talking about teenagers with highly developed morality? Or are they mindless sponges that will absorb whatever the teacher puts before them in the classroom, as they are a captive audience? After watching the students come to the mic and speak eloquently and persuasively, I feel that we all need to give these kids a little more credit and see that they are able to develop opinions and to change them as well. Some of the parents seemed to exhibit this fear that their kids would be led astray, thus p we come to page 4, where the posters in question are critiqued. I won't even offer mine.
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Except to say Wow.
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D'Andrea's proposal is to create an all encompassing repect poster to be posted in a public area, open bulletin board-styles, on campus. This does several things: leaves the posters open to hateful vandalism, which is rampant at SVHS. It removes the special protection that was identified as necessary and specific to the GLBTIQ Community.
Also note the attack on the Queer Youth Leadership Award, following up on earier attacks on the Triangle Speakers.

I simply cannot imagine why it is so important for teenagers as old as 18 to "choose to view, or not to view" materials like "Respect All Families," with its shameful portrayal of "non heterosexual families with children."

Still feel like my 'news' report is fair?

Make your own judgements, but this is the material circulated and the proposal put forth under threat of lawsuit by D'Anrea and his Pacific Justice Institute Suit. (For the PJI's take on all this, visit www.pacificjustice.org/resources/news/focusdetails.cfm ).
 

Re: Scotts Valley High's students and teachers speak out!

Yep, still seems fair. Your point, articulately presented, was driven home by the evidence you presented.
 

Re: Scotts Valley High's students and teachers speak out!

Thanks for the great coverage. Our future looks promising. Your support was appreciated
 

Thanks to the Teachers!

Thanks for the thanks Tami.

The teachers at SVHS that spoke on this evening certainly earned my respect. I'm very glad to know that so many teachers at SVHS are working hard to create safe spaces for the students.

It is my hope that other students and teachers can learn from the passion and dedication of the queer students and allies at SVHS.
 

Re: Scotts Valley High's students and teachers speak out!

A huge THANK YOU to all the teachers at SVHS for tolerating the constant attacks by the community. I respect all of you who continue to open your heart to folks who eat you up. Tami...you rock and I love you.
 

Re: Scotts Valley High's students and teachers speak out!

Ron Jones 1967 cubberley high school teacher, palo alto experiment "The Third Wave", should be read by all. If you have the courage and honesty to inquire about how regular people can...
If you think we are above the holocaust happening again...think or read again.
We need to really look into our hearts as to how we as people can do injustices to others. How is it that we can and do just that? Lets be honest and really look into this....together!
 

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