October 28, 2009

>MI School Board Censors GLBT History Month Display, Then Reverses Itself

>Good news from MI tonight via Todd Heywood of the Michigan Messenger.

A local Shiawassee County school board plans to hold a meeting as soon as Monday to rescind a decision it made Oct. 23 to order the removal of an extracurricular club display honoring gay history month.

“We have violated the First Amendment rights of the students and the Diversity Club,” Maureen Stanley, president of the Corunna Board of Education, said. “We limited their expression.”

Kudos to the ACLU for informing the school board it was violating the law (several, actually).
Todd spoke to GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard on the phone on Tuesday regarding the situation and again today through email.

Eliza Byard, executive director of the national group Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network, said Tuesday she was very worried about the message the board move sent to students, even after the announcement the decision would be rescinded.

In an e-mail Wednesday, Byard wrote: “We thank the school board for recognizing the damage its decision has done to creating an educational environment where difference is valued and respected.”

At the same time, Byard said, she hoped the board would consider the importance of encouraging diversity in educational settings, saying, “While the clear violations of the law stopped them short, the board members should also be taken aback by the educational impoverishment of a curriculum that erases facets of our common history and the reality of life in a diverse society.”

Anti-LGBT bullying is a pervasive problem in Michigan schools, according to a GLSEN research brief based on data from Michigan students who took the 2007 National School Climate Survey. The brief found that 87% of Michigan LGBT students experienced harassment in school in the past year because of their sexual orientation and nearly two-thirds (66%) of those students never reported the harassment to school staff.

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