Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Comrades in harrassment

  Yesterday, the local Marshalltown paper decided to report on Marshalltown High School sophomore Tim Counts’ Facebook ‘Gay Shame Week‘ entry (article here) and noted that 35 people had decided to ‘attend’ the event. Counts has since taken the event off his facebook page because of his claims that he and his family have received numerous threats. I’m not sure why the paper had to give space to this topic. If they had looked at the child’s facebook profile and saw one of his interests was ‘getting wasted’, the story would never have made it to newsprint. I'm happy it did since the article pointed out some interesting things I never knew.

  “Lisa Koester, director of human resources with the Marshalltown Community School District, said the district has looked into what it can legally do about the situation…Koester said the student has freedom of speech without disciplinary action unless it causes a disruption at school. "If it ends up causing a disruption then that trumps (freedom of speech)," Koester said. Koester also said the act can't be defined as bullying since the posts weren't directed at any one person.
  Unless this was written on school grounds, why is the Marshalltown Community School District looking into legal options and disciplinary action? Why are they seeing if the act can be defined as bullying? Does the student’s freedom of speech not exist off of school grounds? What does a director of human resources at Marshalltown Community School District do anyway?

  Cheryl LaVille, MHS staff advisor for the student gay and lesbian support group, Sexual Orientation Alliance Representatives, said the students in her group are frustrated by the website, but are handling it peacefully."We as a SOAR group are disappointed about it," LaVille said. "People are entitled to their own opinions but we don't like the harassment."
  I don’t understand why any group would be frustrated or feel they were being harassed by this. I understand there have been a large number of suicidal gay teenagers in the news lately, but I don’t think this abuse is any less than I remember giving and getting in high school over any number of issues ranging from prowess at sports, what somebody’s sister was up to, your parents occupation (or lack thereof), success with girls, ethnic background, sexual orientation, etc... And nobody killed themselves. Not even the kid that always got caught having sex with his 3-legged dog. I think if somebody is so upset about not being accepted or approved that they would kill themselves, they should work harder at being like everybody else if it is that important. Maybe instead of a slogan like ‘It gets better’, ‘Fit in if you don’t want to stand out’ would be more to the point. I’ve never killed myself, so maybe I’m just out of touch but if you need approval of your choices from other people, you are destined to either have a narrow social circle or a lot of frustration.

  I also never knew there was a High School sanctioned group like this. I’ll date myself by mentioning that when I was president of the Student Government at Union College one of the groups we funded out of the student dues was the Bible Study Club. I don’t think that could happen anymore unless it was the Bible Study Club for Sexually Oriented Alliances or something like that. If Counts was really serious about his protest, he should learn from his ‘adversaries’ and take on a stance celebrating his views instead of denigrating opposing viewpoints. A quick glance at the internet reveals plenty of wristbands, apparel, and bumper sticker proclaiming a heterosexual lifestyle, telling me it’s not a new idea. Wouldn’t there be at least one high school teacher willing to advise the Heterosexual Allied Youth support group. I think I should copyright that name since it has a great midwestern acronym (HAY) and I can see T-shirt sales (HAY, You?) being quite lucrative.

  If this is where our paid school administrators are directing their efforts and attention, it is easy to see why Marshalltown schools have over a third of their students failing basic skills tests. Maybe the town will sue to have a tolerance section added to the standard tests.

  In case anyone thinks I’m being too insensitive, I want to share how I also was discriminated against and harassed and abused last week on Facebook. I met Glenn Panner from Chicago on the Iowa channel of Chess Live many years ago and have played in some chess tournaments he directed. He wanted to be my friend on Facebook a few weeks ago and I was OK with that. Then he posted a ‘Go Rangers’ note after the Rangers went up 2-1 against the Yankees (Not a word about this Ranger fetish when they won the division or beat the Devil Rays in the playoffs). I noted that I was a Yankee fan (it’s on all my profiles) and asked if he was a Ranger fan (most Chicagoans like the Cubs or White Sox) or a Yankee hater and he said he was both. No big deal to me and not the first one I ever met. Last week Glenn posted a question asking what he should be for Halloween and I suggested the Lone Ranger, which I thought was more amusing than the other suggestions of famous bald people which I feel are highly insensitive to the hair-challenged like Glenn and me. Here is the thread:
Glenn Panner is still looking for a good Halloween costume. Suggestions, anyone??
Hank Anzis The Lone Ranger
Glenn Panner@Hank, don't think I forgot about you, I can put a big Massengill label on and go as a Yankee fan!

  I didn’t feel too good reading that, but I’m not looking for the nearest bridge to jump off. However, I am very concerned when men not only know the brand names of feminine hygiene products, but seem to have big labels of them on hand for use as Halloween costumes. What is this world coming to?