Investigation clears gay Fort Worth teacher

Kristopher Franks set to return to work Friday after 4-day leave stemming from allegations of improper behavior

FWISD School board member Carlos Vasquez

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Gay Western Hills High School teacher Kristopher Franks, put on paid administrative leave on Monday, Sept. 26, following allegations of improper behavior, has been cleared of all allegations and was set to return to work today (Friday, Sept. 30).

Franks is the teacher who  became the target of ire from the religious right after he sent a student in his German 1 class to the principal’s office for saying in class that as a Christian he believed “homosexuality is wrong.” The school’s assistance principal then suspended the student, setting off a controversy that made headlines around the country.

That student, freshman Dakota Ary, and his mother enlisted the assistance of Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Krause in fighting the suspension on the grounds that Franks and the school had violated Ary’s right to freedom of speech.

District officials quickly reversed their decision, lifting the suspension.

But Steven Poole, deputy executive director for the United Educators Association of Texas, a teachers union, said Tuesday, Sept. 27, that the allegations leading to Franks being put on leave were unrelated to the incident with Ary.

Franks, who had not spoken to the press previously on the advice of his union representative, said Thursday afternoon that he had just met with Fort Worth Independent School District administrators, who told him the nearly weeklong investigation had determined that the allegations against him were unfounded. He did not elaborate on the substance of those allegations.

Franks also said administrators had given him the option of returning to teach at Western Hills High or transferring to another school in the district.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet what I’m going to do,” Franks told Dallas Voice by phone Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to go back to work tomorrow, and I will talk to my boss [the district’s world languages supervisor], and see what she says and decide what’s the best thing to ­do from there.”

FWISD Board of Trustees member Dr. Carlos Vasquez told Dallas Voice in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 28, that any time allegations are made against a teacher, those allegations have to be investigated, and it is routine for the teacher in question to be placed on paid administrative leave.

Franks said Thursday that he was pleased with the outcome of the investigation, carried out by an independent investigator, and that interim FWISD Supt. Walter Dansby was “very nice” when they spoke.

“I think they did the right thing,” Franks said. “I can go back to work, which is great. But now I just have to figure out how to fix the damage this whole thing has done to my personal life.”

Franks said since the investigation is closed, he is no longer being represented by a union attorney. He has, instead, retained the services of attorney Stephen Gordon to “represent me on any aspects of this whole thing going forward.”

He also indicated that he and Gordon would be discussing what possible actions he might take against “those people who have lied and made false allegations against me.”

While Franks had previously declined to speak to the media, Daokta Ary, his mother and Krause as their attorney went immediately to the press, telling their side of the story in several TV interviews and saying Franks and the school had violated the student’s right to freedom of speech. The case quickly became a rallying point for the religious right.

Krause this week told Dallas Voice that he and his clients are satisfied with school officials’ decision to rescind the unexcused absences the suspension left on Ary’s record, but “we would still like for them [school officials] to completely vindicate him and say that he did nothing wrong. He should never have been written up for an infraction. He should never have been sent to the office, and he should never have been suspended.”

Ary said in  media interviews that he made the comment quietly to a classmate sitting next to him in response to a discussion going on in the class at the time.

Dakota Ary

But Franks told friends shortly after the incident that there was no discussion involving homosexuality at the time, and that Ary made the comment loudly while looking directly at Franks.

Franks also told friends that the comment was only the latest in an ongoing series of incidents in which Ary and a group of three of his friends have made anti-gay comments to and about him.

Franks told friends that the harassment by Ary and his friends began several weeks ago after Franks, who also teaches sociology, posted on the “World Wall” in his classroom a photo, taken from the German news magazine Stern, of two men kissing. The photo was ripped off the wall and torn in two at some point during Ary’s class, and Franks told friends he believes that Ary or one of his friends tore up the photo.

During a later sociology class students upset that the photo had been torn up replaced it with a hand-drawn picture, and another student then covered that picture with a page bearing a hand-written biblical scripture from Leviticus calling sex between two men an abomination.

Franks told friends that since that incident, Ary and his friends had continued to make derogatory and harassing comments.

Franks’ friends also said that the teacher, a Fulbright scholar, has been the target of anti-gay harassment for at least the last two years, including having hateful messages left in his classroom and, in one case, having his car vandalized.

FWISD teacher Martin Vann, spokesman for the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. that was formed about a year ago to help protect students and teachers in the district from anti-gay discrimination and bullying, said that Franks told his version of the incident last week, before the current investigation was launched and Franks was required to sign a statement saying he would not discuss the incident with other teachers, administrators, parents or students. Vann said Franks denied getting angry and yelling at Ary, as Ary had said, and reiterated that Ary’s comments were not pertinent to any discussion in the class at the time.

Vann said Franks told him that another student had asked him what the German word for “Christian” was, and how, if he moved to Germany, he could find an English translation of the Bible. That’s when, Franks told Vann, Ary looked directly at him and said loudly that as a Christian, he believes homosexuality is wrong.

It was not, Franks told Vann, a simple statement of belief or opinion but rather an intentional effort to insult and harass the teacher that Ary perceived to be gay.

Krause this week again said that Ary did not direct his remark in class that day at Franks, and that Ary had nothing to do with tearing down the photo of the men kissing.

The attorney also said that Ary told him he did not know to whom Franks was referring when he talked about Ary’s “three friends.”

The Franks case comes in the wake of months of scandal over allegations by teachers that administrators routinely allowed some teachers and administrators to harass and bully students and other teachers, and that teachers who complained often faced retaliation.

Vasquez, who is openly gay, said Wednesday that he believed the Franks investigation would be fair, that he would watch the situation closely “to make sure all the proper procedures are followed,” and that he believed Dansby would handle the situation fairly.

“Considering all the problems we’ve had, I know he [Dansby] will be watching this closely,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez said it is the school district’s responsibility to make sure there is “no harassment in our schools, whether it’s from the teacher to the student, or student to student or even student to teacher. I know that happens, sometimes, too.

“There should be no harassment whatsoever in our schools,” Vasquez , himself a former teacher, said.

Fort Worth ISD has been credited with having one of the most comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in the state, having adopted individual policies within the last year to include prohibitions against harassment and bullying, including that based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, for both teachers and students.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Broken Mould

Queer punk pioneer Bob Mould turned an abusive childhood into a musical movement, but memoir targets hardcore fans

2.5 out of 5 stars
SEE A LITTLE LIGHT: THE TRAIL OF RAGE AND MELODY
By Bob Mould (with Michael
Azerrad). 2001 (Little, Brown)
$25; 404 pp.

………………………….
It all starts with “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” It continues with the itsy-bitsy spider, the ABCs and being a little teapot. From there, you embrace whatever your older siblings are listening to until you develop your own musical tastes. Maybe you started with records, moved on to the cassette tapes, CD and now, your iPod is full.

The point is, you’ve never been without your tunes.

But what about the people who make the music you love?

When Mould was born in 1960 in the northernmost end of New York, he entered a family wracked with grief: Just before he was born, Mould’s elder brother died of kidney cancer. He surmises that the timing of his birth resulted in his being a “golden child,” the family peacekeeper who sidestepped his father’s physical and psychological abuse.

“As a child,” he writes, “music was my escape.”

Mould’s father, surprisingly indulgent, bought his son guitars and young Bob taught himself to play chords and create songs. By the time he entered high school, Mould knew that he had to get out of New York and away from his family. He also knew he was gay, which would be a problem in his small hometown.

He applied for and entered college in Minnesota, where he started taking serious guitar lessons and drinking heavily. His frustrations led him to launch a punk rock band that made a notable impact on American indie music.

Named after a children’s game, Hüsker Dü performed nationally and internationally, but Mould muses that perhaps youth was against them. He seemed to have a love-hate relationship with his bandmates, and though he had become the band’s leader, there were resentments and accusations until the band finally split.

HUSKER DON’T | Bob Mould turned his youthful rage and homosexuality into a music career. (Photo by Noah Kalina)

But there were other bands and there were other loves than music, as Mould grew and learned to channel the rage inside him and the anger that volcanoed from it.

“I spent two years rebuilding and reinventing myself,” writes Mould. “Now that I’ve integrated who I am and what I do, I finally feel whole.”

If you remember with fondness the ‘80s, with its angry lyrics and mosh pits, then you’ll love this book. For most readers, though, See a Little Light is going to be a struggle. Mould spends a lot of time on a litany of clubs, recording studios, and locales he played some 30 years ago — which is fine if you were a fellow musician or a rabid, hardcore fan. This part of the book goes on… and on… and on, relentlessness and relatively esoteric in nature.

Admittedly, Mould shines when writing about his personal life but even so, he’s strangely dismissive and abrupt with former loves, bandmates, and even family. I enjoyed the occasional private tale; unfortunately there were not enough.

Overall, See a Little Light is great for Mould fanboys and those were heavy into the punk scene. For most readers, though, this book is way out of tune.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

ADF in app form: For when Angry Birds fails to adequately frustrate

New to the iTunes app store:

Adf2PhotoAdfphoto

3PhotoPhoto-2

Tips on how to effectively write off people’s lives and loves as “problems]s] that can still be remedied”? Yup, there’s an app for that!




Good As You

—  admin

Video: Claiming Oprah nurtures nature’s lies, YouTuber chooses angry lifestyle

I was five. Kindergarten graduation day. I was totally into the cute boy with the “rat tail” hair style and the hi-top sneaks with multi-colored, neon laces.

That’s my first memory of crushing on a dude. Though according to this guy, it never happened. I’m either a liar or a victim of child abuse when I look back on such puppy attractions (which would of course be received as benign and adorable if they were male-female). Oh, and a certain talk show host is a “big headed” source of rage if she gives credence to the remembrances:

But don’t worry. Somehow we think Oprah will find solace in either her blankie, a warm shoulder, or the gagillion dollar empire that bears her name.

As for this writer? Well l find solace in knowing that my biological attractions weren’t faked, because there was no reason to fake them. And this was true when those attractions had nothing to do with my junk and where I wanted to place it, and everything to do with my impetus to ditch pal Nicole whenever Ethan requested a pretend opponent for his pretend Hulk Hogan.




Good As You

—  admin

MassResistance angry with Scott Brown; Scott Brown’s clearly done something right

At an earlier, Coakley-ier time, Brian Camenker from the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group MassResistance was all kinds of into Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA):

6A00D8341C503453Ef0120A8D24D02970B

( click to play audio clip)

But now — oh, but now. Well here, let’s let Brian MassResistance tell you what went down:

On Wednesday afternoon Brian Camenker of MassResistance spoke at length with Brandon Acheson, a staffer in Brown’s Washington, DC office who has been explaining Brown’s position on this issue to constituents since the announcement. It was very disappointing, to say the least. It appears that Brown has become just another disingenuous, disconnected Washington politician.

Here’s some of what Brandon told us:

Brown’s statement in the MFI voter guide. Brandon indicated he didn’t know who MFI was and that Brown never authorized any statement about his position — that it must have been a miscommunication. “Sen. Brown never made a firm commitment that he would vote against it,” Brandon told us. However, MFI’s president, Kris Mineau, told that Boston Herald, “When Sen. Brown ran for election, he said he would support the current policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ In fact, MFI worked closely with Brown and hosted several events for him in this campaign. They even hold a birthday party for him each year (even though he’s pro-choice).

Interestingly, in that same article the Herald also reported that: “Brown’s spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho, said Brown changed his tune after President Obama ordered the Pentagon to review the policy. At that point, Brown said he would keep an open mind to its finding, which came out this week.”

Sleazy lame-duck session. We asked Brandon why Brown doesn’t support waiting a few weeks and letting the newly elected Congress decide this — that using a lame-duck session was offensive to people. He avoided answering the question directly, but indicated that Brown had no problem with a lame-duck session passing controversial bills. But he’s insisting that two things get passed first: (1) full extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, and (2) a bill to continue funding the federal budget. Both of those appear to be in the works as part of the horse-trading going on to get this bill passed.

Repealing the current law makes bold statement. Repealing the current law (see text above) makes the statement that homosexuality is compatible with US military service. Does Brown agree with that? Brandon wouldn’t answer that. Instead, he said that Brown has been in the military for 31 years and is comfortable with his position. (Would he be comfortable showering next to someone sizing him up? Well, we didn’t ask that.)

41st vote against Obama agenda? We reminded him that Brown ran as “number 41″ and his base back home read that as their protection against the Obama agenda being pushed on them. But now Brown seems to be doing just the opposite. Brandon wouldn’t comment on that, either. He seemed to indicate that Brown was not concerned about opposition from conservatives back home, or the concept that they were his “base” of support.

Needless to say, the entire conversation was depressing and angering.

Scott Brown announces full support for repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” [MassResistance]

Depressing and angering — or promising and in tune with the 2 out of 3 Americans who support military fairness? We’ll let you, Scott Brown, and the Bay State voters who prefer political advice from people not monitored by the SPLC make that determination.




Good As You

—  admin

Massachusetts hate group angry at teachers who shared coming out experiences

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

From that “bastion of Christian fairness,” the American Family Association's One News Now, comes this item:

A pro-family group is outraged that a high school in Massachusetts allowed an event on campus at which seven teachers spoke about how they “came out” as homosexuals.

Brian Camenker, president of MassResistance!, tells OneNewsNow a concerned mother first alerted his group of the panel discussion that took place at Concord-Carlisle High School in late October during which seven teachers shared their “coming out” stories and encouraged the reported standing-only audience to do the same.

“They also said that if kids want to discuss their homosexual issues, that their parents will not be informed of anything — that it's completely private,” Camenker reports. “And this was one of the things that really bothered this mother, that…if kids are involved with a dangerous and deadly behavior, the school isn't even going to tell their parents that it's going on.”

The entire tone of the article, of which Camenker is the only source by the way, gives an impression of innocent students being “indoctrinated” by a supposed gay agenda.

Of course the truth of the panel discussion is slightly different than Camenker would have us to believe. From the Massachusetts publication The Carlisle Mosquito comes a more detailed version of the panel discussion:

Acknowledging recent national reports of the high-risk for suicide among gay teens, a panel of seven teachers agreed to come forward and talk about their personal experiences at a meeting held at the Concord-Carlisle high school (CCHS) on Friday, October 21. The gathering in the Little Theatre was standing room only. The event was hosted by Spectrum, the gay-straight alliance organization at the school.

Spectrum, with about 12 members of all sexual orientations, meets weekly at the high school on Wednesday afternoons. The teens discuss current events and questions about sexual orientation, gender identity and being an ally. The group was founded in 1992, as a response to Governor William Weld’s Safe Schools initiative aimed at helping lesbian, gay and bi-sexual teens. Spectrum has sponsored film viewings, health-week programs and special events – such as this panel discussion – at the high school. Adult sponsors of the group include guidance counselor Kelli Kirstein and social studies teacher Ben Kendall – well known for his humor and who identified himself at the meeting as “mostly straight.”
The seven speakers included special educator Amelie Atwater-Rhodes, science teacher Brian Miller, English teacher John Woodnal, English teacher Shelley Hull, health and fitness educator Nancy Slocum, physics teacher Kevin Pennucci and math teacher Peter Atlas. Kendall introduced the panel, and said that they were seated from youngest to oldest. He noted that the panel members had agreed to share their personal stories about coming out as gay or lesbian to emphasize that their lives improved as a result. He limited each participant to five minutes, but the speakers – encouraged by applause from the audience after each individual talk – continued on for much longer. The event stretched to an hour and a half before the gathering broke up for pizza.

 

The bottom line is whereas Camenker (and One News Now) tries to push the inane notion that homosexuality was “marketed” to students by teachers, the truth of the matter is that these teachers, alarmed about the recent suicides amongst lgbt youth, decided to not only come out but also share their personal stories as a way of telling lgbt youth that (forgive me for saying something that has become a cliche, albeit a positive one) that “it will get better.”
These teachers should be commended.
Camenker, on the other hand, should be looked at warily. And everything he says should be taken with the smallest grain of salt. You see, Camenker's group, Mass Resistance, is one of 14 official hate groups named so by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
According to the SPLC, these groups do not simply speak against homosexuality.
(They) have engaged in the crudest type of name-calling, describing homosexuals as “perverts” with “filthy habits” who seek to snatch the children of straight parents and “convert” them to gay sex. They have disseminated disparaging “facts” about gays that are simply untrue — assertions that are remarkably reminiscent of the way white intellectuals and scientists once wrote about the “bestial” black man and his supposedly threatening sexuality.

In the case of Camenker and Mass Resistance, this includes:

Manufacturing a phony panic about “schools teaching children about homosexuality,”

Claiming in 2005 on Comedy Central's Daily Show that if given time, he would be able to connect gay marriage in Massachusetts to the “reduction” of the quality of life in the state, a spike in homelessness rates, or and a lowering the quality of the air in the state, or

Making a claim in 2006 that “gays were trying to get legislation passed to allow sex with animals” in Massachusetts.

Continuing a vindictive campaign of misinformation against the transgendered community (whom the organization refers to as “men in dresses) .

Most recently, the organization was key in manufacturing inaccurate claims about Obama appointee Kevin Jennings in an attempt to get him dismissed. The watchdog site Media Matters published a list of the lies Camenker and Mass Resistance spread about Jennings.

In one post, Media Matters goes on to say:

  . . .conservative commentator Dean Barnett has stated that the organization “verges on being a hate group.” Camenker himself reportedly denied that gays and lesbians were targeted during the Holocaust and has compared the gay rights movement to the Nazis.

If I were a parent, I wouldn't have any problem with my child attending that panel discussion with the lgbt teachers. But I wouldn't let my child get anywhere near Camenker. I wouldn't want that hatred to rub off.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Pentagon Releases Angry Statement: No Information to Be Released on ‘DADT’ Report Until They’re Ready

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell released the following statement late today regarding leaking of information related to its report on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' which appeared in a report earlier this week, as well as demands from activist groups to release the study early.

Gates "Secretary Gates is very concerned and extremely disappointed that unnamed sources within the Department of Defense have selectively revealed aspects of the draft findings of the Comprehensive Review Working Group, presumably to shape perceptions of the report prior to its release. 

"The Secretary launched this review in March to objectively ascertain the impact of potential repeal of the ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ law on military readiness, effectiveness, recruiting, retention, unit cohesion and families. He made it clear then and throughout this process that it was ‘critical that this effort be carried out in a professional, thorough and dispassionate manner.’ He has also stated clearly that ‘given the political dimension of this issue, it is equally critical that…every effort be made to shield our men and women in uniform and their families from those aspects of this debate.’ 

"For nearly nine months the Working Group has operated in strict accordance to that mandate.  Anonymous sources now risk undermining the integrity of this process.   

"The Secretary strongly condemns the unauthorized release of information related to this report and has directed an investigation to establish who communicated with the Washington Post or any other news organization without authorization and in violation of Department policy and his specific instruction. 

"The full report will be made public for all to review early next month. Until then, no one at the Pentagon will comment on its contents.”

They certainly wouldn't want it to have any impact on DADT repeal passing in the lame duck Senate.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Message to the Tea Party – What took you so long to get angry?

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

I didn't write this. The actual author is unknown but he/she speaks gospel. In anticipation of this election and most assured coronation of the astroturfed group as kingmakers, no matter the outcome:

You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.  

You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate Energy policy and push us to invade Iraq . 

You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.    

You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.   You didn't get mad when we spent over 800 billion (and counting) on said illegal war.    

You didn't get mad when Bush borrowed more money from foreign sources than the previous 42 Presidents combined.      

You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars in cash just disappeared in Iraq .      

You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.       

You didn't get mad when Bush embraced trade and outsourcing policies that shipped 6 million American jobs out of the country.

You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.       

You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden.

You didn't get mad when Bush rang up 10 trillion dollars in combined budget and current account deficits.      

You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.    

You didn't get mad when we let a major US city, New Orleans drown.     

You didn't get mad when we gave people who had more money than they could spend, the filthy rich, over a trillion dollars in taxbreaks. You didn't get mad with the worst 8 years of job creations in several decades.     

You didn't get mad when over 200,000 US Citizens lost their lives because they had no health insurance.    

You didn't get mad when lack of oversight and regulations from the Bush Administration caused US Citizens to lose 12 trillion dollars in investments, retirement, and home values.     

No…..You finally got mad

When a black man was elected President and decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick.

Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, job losses by the millions, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, and the worst economic disaster since 1929 are all okay with you, but helping fellow Americans who are sick…Oh, Hell No!! 

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

BS or a possibility? AP: Gay voters angry at Democrats could sway election

This post has a poll; weigh in…

Read this article and tell me whether this story holds water. After what we’ve been discussing regarding the support for pro-equality candidates as well as how critical it is to vote because of those down ticket races that affect LGBT issues progress at the state and local levels, is this AP article on target?

Across the country, activists say gay voters are angry – at the lack of progress on issues from eliminating employment discrimination to uncertainty over serving in the military to the economy – and some are choosing to sit out this election or look for other candidates.

…[I]n places like Cook County, Ill., where the gay population represents about 7 percent of voters, that could mean the difference between victory and defeat in some races, said Rick Garcia, director of public policy for Equality Illinois. One of those races is a much-watched and close battle for Obama’s old Senate seat between Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk.

“If (candidates) can mobilize the gay community and get them out to vote, it could make all the difference in the world in some of these key races,” said Garcia.

But volunteers who’ve been calling the 18,000 or so members of Equality Illinois to urge them to vote have been getting an earful. Many members say they won’t vote or will vote against incumbents, regardless of their party affiliation or stance on gay issues.

This year’s election is a stark contrast to 2008, when the gay community turned out in droves to elect Obama and help Democrats regain control of Congress.

I happen to think it’s BS, and only sets up the meme that the community will be to blame for any major losses in the midterms.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Watch: Alec Baldwin is Angry He Can’t Marry Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Baldwin

Alec Baldwin responds to the announcement in August by Jesse Tyler Ferguson that they're getting married, in a new spot for Fight Back NY.

As you may recall Fight Back NY is the PAC targeting anti-gay lawmakers in the New York Senate. Their current target is Queens senator Frank Padavan. If you feel inclined to take Alec's advice, help them out here.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP



Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright