November 14, 2011

Wyoming High School Football Coach Under Fire for Homophobic, Sexist Language

The Casper Star Tribune in Wyoming recently reported on Buffalo High School football coach Pat Lynch who was forced to resign after distributing to the football team a gag report about bullying.

The "Hurt Feelings" report was laced with homophobic and sexist remarks including "I am a pussy," "I am a queer" and "I am a little bitch." You can view the survey in its entirety here.
Lynch was the school's head football coach for the past 13-plus seasons. He coached the high school football team to two state titles in 2004 and 2005.
The coach submitted his resignation as head coach and weight room supervisor to the Johnson County school board this week. At a school board meeting, a letter of apology from Lynch was read aloud.
In his letter, the coach wrote:
I would like to apologize for my lapse in judgment and the poor choice that I made from my position as the Head Football Coach for Buffalo High School...I know that this situation has caused you pain and discomfort, and for that I am truly sorry. As a person and a professional, I believe I will learn and grow from this experience and use it to help others.

What remains unclear is why the school board allowed Lynch to stay on as a guidance counselor when he resigned for overtly sharing inappropriate material with students that was clearly sexist and homophobic.

The high school has reportedly not commented on the decision to retain Lynch as an employee of the school district.

According to data from the GLSEN 2009 National School Climate Survey, a national survey of 7,261 middle and high school students revealed that more than half (58.2%) of the survey participants felt "somewhat comfortable" or "very comfortable" talking to a school-based mental health professional like a guidance counselor about LGBT issues.

If a majority of LGBT students perceive school-based mental health professionals to be safe and affirming school personnel, it seems questionable the Johnson County school district would retain Pat Lynch in his position as a high school guidance counselor when he poked fun of LGBT bullying.

The same argument can be made for female-identified students. Lynch's "joke survey"was littered with sexist language that would make any student wonder if this school staff member was an ally and a resource to seek out for support or assistance.

It's clear that LGBT students need supportive educators that model behavior that promotes respect and the positive value in difference. In the same GLSEN study, LGBT students who can identify supportive educators reported feeling safer in school and obtaining higher grade point averages than other students (3.1 vs 2.7).

Similarly, Lynch sent the wrong message to Buffalo High School athletes that homophobia and sexism are acceptable within competitive sports. But we know this is not an isolated incident.

In response, Changing the Game: The GLSEN Sports Project was formed to address similar anti-LGBT incidents found within school athletics. The project aims to create and maintain an athletic and physical education climate that is based on the core principles of respect, safety and equal access for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Coaches, athletes and teams have come together to promote this inclusive message to others like Pat Lynch in the sports community. GLSEN recently teamed up with The Ad Council and the NBA to produce a public service announcement on the very issue. You can watch it below:

Have you heard any anti-LGBT remarks or experienced harassment by your school personnel because of your sexual orientation or gender identity/expression? Or does your school do an amazing job at supporting LGBT students? Let us know!

Send us a tweet at @glsen or talk to us on our Facebook Page.

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