In February 2014, Russia will host the Winter Olympic Games, less than a year after adopting a law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships to minors.” Critics of the law claim that its broad, sweeping provisions will be used to persecute members of Russia’s LGBTQ community, and the bill’s passage introduces concern for gay athletes planning on competing in the Olympics. A Moscow resident plans to have “Open Games” for athletes of any sexual orientation right after the Sochi games end.
In comparison, the U.S. as a whole seems to be making great progress concerning the treatment of gays and lesbians, as 14 states have legalized gay marriage. However, some of our nation’s schools seem to be making anything but progress.
Many Christian schools in the Southeast and a few across the nation, have a policy banning engagements of sexual “impurity.” That policy alone means that “simply identifying as gay or even supporting a gay friend can lead to dismissal,” according to an Oct. 10 story in Rolling Stone Magazine.
The idea that students are being punished or expelled from school for simply being themselves is absolutely disheartening when looking at our nation’s progress.
Homosexuality is a large and defining aspect of some individuals’ identity, and because it is not an action, many believe it has the capability to corrupt others. Students across the nation feel as though they cannot be, in fear that school authorities will find out and punish or expel them.
Cherokee Christian School in Georgia is one such school. The school rules warn that no “identifying statements concerning homosexuality, bisexuality or lesbianism will be tolerated.”
Georgia, along with Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma and New Hampshire (among others), has a school voucher law that grants “dollar-for-dollar tax credits to people who donate money to provide children with scholarships to private schools… in practice, especially in deeply religious places like Georgia, it has also meant that millions of dollars have been redirected from public funds to privately run Student Scholarship Organizations, which can then funnel the money to schools with strict anti-gay policies,” according to the Rolling Stone article.
Some believe these sorts of policies are equivalent to school policies concerning cheating or stealing and are incorporated into the schools’ codes of conduct as such.
Compare this with ASU’s Code of Conduct, which forbids “engaging in discriminatory activities as prohibited by applicable law or university policy.”
The University’s anti-discrimination policy “prohibits harassment, discrimination and retaliation… based on protected status, including race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Policies that discriminate against the LGBTQ community can have tremendous affect on students’ mental stability and educational future.
One teen, who was forced to leave his high school in Georgia, spoke of how he wanted to kill himself because of the feeling that accompanied being expelled for his sexuality. A small private Christian school in Alpharetta, Ga., gave a gay male student two options after they discovered his orientation (a friend “reported” him to the administration officials): He could continue to attend school but would not be allowed to affiliate with classmates or participate in any extracurricular activities.
He chose to withdraw from the school instead. However, the school refused to grant him a degree, which prevented him from being allowed to enroll in the college he planned on attending.
The students of today are the presidents, magazine editors, senators and teachers of tomorrow, yet many schools deny them their right to education due to their sexuality. One’s sexuality is personal, concerning no others besides the individual themselves. It certainly is no reason for expulsion.
A school’s religious nature should not require discrimination, and the school should not receive public funds if they continue to enforce discriminatory policies.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @brookesramos