Extinguishing Homophobia in Educational Institutions

By Jami Laubich, Communications Intern

Schools are meant to educate students, not persecute them for being different. Several headlines in the news recently have shown that both private and public educational institutions in the United States are lacking ethics. The welfare of a student body is threatened when its school acts in ways that perpetuates hate and homophobia. Do you remember attending your prom?

Do you remember being told by your school that you couldn’t dress the way you wanted to or bring the person you were dating? Didn’t think so! Unfortunately, Constance McMillen is all too familiar with the experience. Itawamba Agricultural High School, in the Mississippi School District decided to cancel McMillen’s prom instead of letting her wear a tuxedo and attend with her girlfriend. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit in Federal Court against the Itawamba County School System, where U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson ruled McMillen’s first amendment rights were violated but refused the ACLU’s demand to force the school district to put on the prom. While McMillen does not have a prom to attend, it is with great hope that because of her efforts future students will be able to attend prom with their partner of choice.

Discrimination in schools on the basis of sexual orientation does not end with Constance McMillen. Over in Boulder, Colorado, at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School a lesbian couple was told that because of their sexual orientation, their children’s future at the school was over. The youngest child is allowed to finish pre-school, but may not advance to kindergarten. Meanwhile, the oldest child could attend kindergarten next year, but not first grade the following year. Instead of teaching tolerance and acceptance, the school is teaching hatred and avoidance. Why?

In agreement with the Colorado school’s decision, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput said, “If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the Church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible.” So here’s a question, does the Sacred Heart of Jesus School turn away children whose parents are divorced? What about if they use birth control? Not likely.

While homophobia exists in private elementary schools and public high schools, an attempt to combat discrimination in higher education is being blocked. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sent a letter to all public Virginia universities and colleges that stated the schools should exclude sexual orientation and gender identity from their anti-discrimination policies. In the words of Virginia Democratic congressional candidate Rich Anthony, this action was, “homophobic bigotry.” Students at the colleges and universities have sprung into action. Virginia students and supporters have created Facebook groups, attended rallies, and made it very clear that their campuses will remain discrimination free. Let’s hope they do!

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