Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Discrimination Casts Shadow Over Progress

Letter-to-the-Editor in The Derrick (Oil City / Franklin, PA) - May 17, 2010:


As the directors of “Out in the Silence,” a documentary about the struggle for visibility, justice and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people in rural and small town America, we were greatly encouraged by our experiences in Venango County over the four years of making the film.

But as we travel to screening events across Pennsylvania, using it as a tool for community education and dialogue, we are troubled by reports that the problems at Franklin High School that are portrayed in the film continue or have gotten worse.

We are told by people who have first-hand experience that GLBT students at Franklin High continue to be bullied, harassed and violated with little or no intervention by school authorities. Moreover, we are told, teachers and counselors who show any interest in helping these students have actually been threatened by the school administration with retaliation and loss of employment.

This type of discrimination toward any minority group is unacceptable. It’s also a violation of the Pennsylvania Code of Conduct for Educators.

What can you do to help? If you have concerns about or know of any teacher or administrator at Franklin or any school who has engaged in negligent or discriminatory activity, it is possible to file an Educator Misconduct Complaint through the Professional Standards and Practices Commission. All complaints are handled in strict confidentiality.

For more information visit http://www.education.state.pa.us/ or call the Chief Counsel, Pennsylvania Department of Education, 717-783-0201.

As we prepare for the media attention that will accompany the film’s June screenings in the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival as well as national PBS broadcast this spring, we plan to talk about all of the good things that are happening in Venango County, but the situation at Franklin High casts a dark shadow that we simply cannot, will not, ignore.

If one believes in the concept that all people are created equal and deserving of equal rights and respect under the law, then those beliefs must include GLBT people. And if not now, when?

Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer
Washington, D.C.

1 comment:

God said...

If you have beef stew, don't be surprised if there is beef in it.

Venango County has a culture of extreme heterosexism, and extreme Christian-centric dogmas.

Most of the people promoting this agenda are about as dysfunctional and corrupt as you will ever find.

But, nevertheless, that's the way it goes around these parts.

This isn't just happening in the high schools.

However, as the power of the internet grows, the light of day shines on these bigots, (and the sometimes well-meaning but ignorant heterosexists,) which hopefully will change things for the better.

Thanks for the letter. Every little bit helps.