Project ProteKT. BREAKING NEWS: The Austin School District Exposed. Neutrality on Anti-Gay Bullying?
What you see on the right is an internal memo from the Austin Independent School District to all of their principles concerning the Day of Silence. I found myself breathless yesterday as I read their instructions to staff. They begin by explaining that the Day of Silence is a day of protest against the bullying and harassment of LGBT students in schools. They go on to say: “Students may voluntarily engage in this activity as long as participation is not disruptive to instructional activities or in violation of the Student Code of Conduct. School staff should keep in mind that students are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure and should be sensitive to the possibility that a student may face ridicule or peer pressure by non-participation.”
Yes, you read that correctly. The Austin school board is concerned that people who do not oppose anti-lgbt bullying are going to be bullied!!! In response to The Day of Silence, they have not sent out a memo about the grim statistics related to anti-gay bullying, statistics that range from dangerously high suicide rates to the possibility of permanent psychological damage.
In case you haven’t been following us and don’t know the statistics I’m referring to, here’s a reminder:
- Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth (86.2%) report being verbally harassed at school.
- More than 60 percent of LGBT students said they have felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
- Nearly 45 percent of LGBT students report being physically harassed in school.
- Nearly one-third of LGBT students nationwide have said they have missed a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe.
The Austin School District believes the appropriate response from their staff is NEUTRALITY.
The memo goes on to explain The Austin School District’s policy on neutrality:
“School personnel should neither encourage nor discourage a student’s participation. Because school personnel are generally quite influential in developing the thoughts of young children, it is important that school personnel avoid even the appearance of endorsing a particular position or belief on behalf of the school. Personnel should avoid publicizing their beliefs to students for this reason. If students inquire directly about a staff member’s beliefs, staff may answer the question simply and briefly but should avoid answering in a manner that could be construed as proselytizing. School personnel may participate provided they do so in their free time, outside the presence of students, and do not impose on non-participating employees.”
Since I first read this yesterday, I’ve been wondering if The Austin School District has a similar policy regarding other non-discrimination campaigns. Before Martin Luther King Day, do they send out neutrality instructions regarding anti-racist bullying? During Domestic Violence Awareness month, do they send out a circular telling staff that they must avoid answering questions in a manner that could be construed as proselytizing?
I have decided to send a letter to The Austin School District asking for clarifications, and if they do indeed insist their staff be neutral on the bullying of any other part of their student body, or if their neutrality is only reserved for anti-LGBTQ bullying.