Uplift Education introduces new inclusive anti-bullying policy

60144_470172559670970_1080250106_nUplift Education, a network of 14 charter schools across North Texas, began the new school year with a new robust anti-bullying policy drafted in collaboration with Fairness Fort Worth and the Resource Center Dallas. David Mack Henderson, president of Fairness Fort Worth, wrote on Facebook:

When school started at the 14 campuses of Uplift Education’s charter schools across North Texas last week, the over 12,000 students were greeted with a new, fully inclusive anti-bullying policy that includes protections against acts “motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic such as…sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.” That policy was developed with the input of Fairness Fort Worth and Resource Center. Officials from both groups met with senior leadership of Uplift in the spring of 2012, proactively suggesting that the schools adopt a policy that would specifically protect LGBTQ and other students. Uplift developed a draft policy last fall, and turned to Fairness Fort Worth and the Center for additional input and review. The new policy was adopted by the Uplift board this spring and went into effect at the beginning of the school year.

Check out this coming week’s edition of the Voice for more information on the policy.

—  James Russell

HRC endorses ‘champion for equality’ Wendy Davis for governor

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The nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, is endorsing state Sen. Wendy Davis in her gubernatorial bid, the organization announced Wednesday.

“Wendy Davis has been a champion for equality for all, whether it is the working poor or LGBT Texans,” HRC President Chad Griffin said. “Her dedication to the underdog and commitment to fairness for all Texas families make her the right choice for Governor.”

Davis has a proven record on LGBT issues in the state Legislature.

She authored the only LGBT-inclusive version of anti-bullying legislation in 2011. That same year she co-sponsored youth suicide prevention legislation and lobbied to kill an anti-transgender marriage bill.

Last year’s session was just as impressive with her co-authoring the Senate version of a statewide workplace nondiscrimination bill and co-authoring inclusive insurance nondiscrimination legislation. And when a different version of the anti-trans marriage bill came up, she was one of only two senators to vote against it.

HRC endorsed Davis because of her “stellar record on LGBT equality” and ” history of putting Texas’ families first,” compared to anti-gay Greg Abbott, her likely opponent in November.

“Wendy Davis’ energy and courage are needed in Austin,” said Julie Johnson, a Texas attorney and HRC board member emeritus. “I’m proud to be one of the tens of thousands of HRC members in Texas, and I know that Wendy will fight for all our families when elected. Wendy has proven herself an effective leader — and that’s exactly what the people of Texas need.”

But, surprisingly, she wasn’t connected to any of the three pieces of legislation dealing with marriage equality last year, HJR 77, HJR 78 and HB 1300. Davis has never made a public statement in support of marriage equality, and when asked by Dallas Voice during a press conference about how she would approach it as governor, she replied that she would leave it in the Legislature’s hands.

Since filing for governor, Davis has publicly applauded San Antonio’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Davis supported a similar ordinance in 2000 when she served on the Fort Worth City Council. But her campaign has since been silent on LGBT issues. Davis was a surprise speaker at HRC’s Black Tie Dinner in November, and she’ll be attending a Dallas LGBT fundraiser at a lesbian couple’s home this Friday, which is closed to media. Despite showing up at fundraisers and events where she appeals to LGBT voters, her campaign has refused several requests for an interview with Dallas Voice for the reason that she is too busy.

—  Anna Waugh

Wear purple Thursday and have a grape day

purple-shirtDallas has its Purple Foundation, which probably wasn’t so named as a reminder of anti-bullying, but which works for us. Anything to serve as a reminder that tomorrow, Oct. 17, is the fourth annual Spirit Day. The nationwide event is about raising awareness of bullying. And how do you do that? Well, you don’t need a ribbon or a wristband — you just need to get yourself to the far end of the rainbow.

Wearing purple on Thursday is a symbol of support for those who are bullied, who are often members of the LGBT community. Make it a shirt or some snazzy trousers or a thong if you’re an exotic dancer or a monster costume if you’re a Furry or play Barney or Tinky-Winky on TV. Anything that shows your support will be welcome.

Even businesses are getting into the act: Johnson & Johnson will be “going purple” by changing the colors on all its logos temporarily, from Motrin to Rogaine to Listerine. Corporate citizenship like that puts us in the pink … or at least, the mauve.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Texas Rangers pitcher Robbie Ross and wife pose for NOH8 photo

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Texas Rangers pitcher Robbie Ross and his wife, Brittany, both Christians, posed for a NOH8 photo to speak out about how their support for LGBT people is part of their faith.

Ross wore a bracelet that said, “In Jesus name I play,” and showed off two tattoos with Bible verses Mark 9:23and James 4:10.

Ross told Outsports he and his wife wanted to how that they as Christians support the fight for LGBT equality and wanted the picture to portray that.

“Being in sports, and being around all kinds of different people, you just want to accept everyone for who they are,” Robbie told Outsports. “My wife Brittany and I are Christians, and we believe we as Christians should love everyone and show everyone love, and if this is the best way to do it, then we want to support them.”

“It genuinely breaks my heart,” Brittany said. “We’re all human, and we can all take things from the Bible and twist them however we want. You can basically take a verse from the Bible and say it’s OK to beat your wife, but the world says that’s not OK, so that’s what we go with. And I think the world is saying that gay people in the community are OK. Jesus came to love people. He never persecuted anybody. There are a lot of confusing things in the Bible, and I think if anything is confusing and it promotes hate, then you’re taking it the wrong way.

“Being gay shouldn’t just be tolerated, it should be celebrated that people can embody who they truly are,” Brittany added. “I think that’s the main thing.”

The Texas Rangers haven’t always been supportive. A homophobic tweet last year sparked controversy. Before that, the team was supposedly going to shoot an “It Gets Better” video for LGBT youth, but ended up making an anti-bullying PSA without mentioning LGBT issues.

—  Anna Waugh

Tyler Clementi’s roommate found guilty by N.J. jury of 15 counts, including hate crime

Tyler Clementi

The roommate of a Rutgers University student who committed suicide after a video of him kissing a man in his dorm room surfaced on the Internet was convicted of all 15 counts against him Friday.

Dharun Ravi, 20, was convicted of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation based on sexual orientation after his gay roommate Tyler Clementi committed suicide in 2010 after the video Ravi recorded with his webcam surfaced. Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge, and his suicide made national headlines and began an anti-bullying moment for the LGBT community.

While Ravi was not charged with Clementi’s death and the jury found him not guilty on subparts of the charges, he was found guilty of all 15 counts.

The hate crime of bias intimidation based on sexual orientation carries a sentence of up to 10 years, but the Associated Press reports that he will most likely get a combined 10-year sentence May 21.

Clementi’s father spoke to the younger generation at a press conference after the verdict, according to The Associated Press:

At a news conference, father Joe Clementi advised young people: “You’re going to meet a lot of people in your life. Some of these people you may not like. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean you have to work against them.”

A statement from Rutgers says “this sad incident should make us all pause to recognize the importance of civility and mutual respect.”

The Middlesex County prosecutor’s office says it would pursue such a case again even if the victim hadn’t died.

—  Anna Waugh

HISD Trustee Eastman to hold community meeting on anti-bullying efforts

Anna Eastman

HISD Trustee Anna Eastman

Houston Independent School District Trustee Anna Eastman has announced a special meeting for constituents in her District I to discuss anti-bullying programs currently implemented in HISD on Tuesday, February 7. The meeting, at Reagan High School (413 E 13th), coincides with HISD’s Anti-Bullying Awareness Week.

Guests include Kim A. Case of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Martin B. Cominsky of the Anti-Defamation League and Sarah Fisher of +Works, a national, Houston-based anti-bullying organization.

Eastman has been on the forefront of anti-bullying efforts in HISD since joining the board of trustees in 2009, helping push through actions by the board last summer that protect students from harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

—  admin

Hold ‘Em High for Hope poker tournament at Axiom

Aces high

Hope for Peace and Justice teams up with Pocket Rockets tonight for their Hold ‘Em High for Hope poker tourney and mixer. With over $400 in prizes, the event benefits the anti-bullying campaign, the Safe Schools Program. Raffles, silent auction, drinks and food make the evening an event. And don’t worry. Non-poker players are just as welcome. Hey, it is a mixer, also.

DEETS: Axiom Sushi Lounge,  4123 Cedar Springs Road. 6:30 p.m. PocketRocketsDallas.com

—  Rich Lopez

Iconic LGBT activist Ray Hill files for Texas House seat

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

Long time Houston LGBT activist Ray Hill filed paperwork this week to run for the 147th Texas House seat against incumbent Garnet Coleman, D – Houston. The iconic (and iconoclastic) Hill said that he and Coleman agree on many issues but that he had “some issues  that aren’t on the table in Austin.”

Specifically Hill has concerns with the legislature’s approach to criminal justice issues. “The Texas legislature is a serial world class red-necking competition,” says Hill. “What they are doing on criminal justice is wrong and it doesn’t work… we need a serious rethink.”

Coleman has a strong history of supporting LGBT legislation. For the last three sessions he has attempted to pass anti-bullying legislation that would require school districts to report instances of bullying using an enumerated list of motivating characteristics that include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, he has also filed legislation to remove the the crime of “homosexual conduct” from the Texas penal code (a law that has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), to equalize age of consent laws in Texas and to add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime law. In the 82nd legislature earlier this year Coleman authored seven pieces of legislation designed to create greater equality for LGBT people, including the first ever filing of legislation to standardize change of gender marker procedures for the transgender community and the first effort to repeal the state’s constitutional prohibition against marriage equality.

Hill recognizes Coleman’s historic contributions, “The incumbent and I agree on a lot of issues,” says Hill, “but we don’t tell young gay people ‘if you work real hard and go to school and do your best you can grow up to have straight friends in Austin who like you.’ No, we tell them ‘if you work hard they can grow up to be Mayor of Houston, or City Supervisor of San Francisco.’”

When asked why the community would be better served by him than Coleman, a 20 year legislative veteran, Hill replies “I understand how government works. A freshman legislator can’t do anything more than irritate, but that’s about all any member of the minority party can do. On that level the incumbent and I are on the same level… I think we need somebody obnoxious [in the legislature] who’s going to purposefully rub the cat hair the wrong direction.”

Since being elected to the legislature for the first time in 1992 Coleman has been unopposed in 5 of his 9 primary reelection bids. No primary challenger to Coleman has pulled more than 21% of the vote.

—  admin

Local activists continue effort to remove Rodriguez

Rodriguez Protest

Protesors, led by Mike Pomeroy, outside of the November 10 HISD Board meeting

The controversy over an anti-LGBT flier distributed by HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez continues to snowball. Activists organizing on the website hisdbully.org and led by Mike Pomeroy and Cristan Williams are planning to protest at the HISD Board Meeting December 8. The protest, which begins at 4:30  pm outside the Hattie May White Center (4400 West 18th Street) where the School Board meets, is part of a two pronged approach that includes speakers directly confronting Rodriguez during the period allowed for public comments at the meeting.

As previously reported by Houstini, At some point towards the end of early voting during the fall municipal elections Rodriquez began distributing a flier that encouraged Houstonians to vote against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, because Fonseca had a history of activism for LGBT issues, was endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, had no children and had a “male partner.” The flier came within a hair’s breadth of saying “don’t vote for gay people” without actually saying it.

The Houston LGBT Political Caucus discovered the flier and began bringing it to the public’s attention on Friday, November 4, the last day of early voting. By election day, November 8, the flier had become national news. Rodriguez received 916 votes in early voting, Fonseca 814. On election day, after the flier became public knowledge, Rodriguez garnered 1,485 votes to Fonseca’s 1,563. Rodriquez’s pre-election day lead was sufficient to put him into office by 24 votes.

On November 10, at the Houston Independent School Board’s monthly meeting, Rodriguez heard from students, parents and teachers in the district furious at him for perpetuating anti-LGBT sentiment. Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus revealed to the board that, in addition to distributing the flier, Rodriguez made additional homophobic remarks to local Spanish-language media.

What you all might not know is that [Rodriguez] also went on television and said that he ‘just couldn’t understand why an unmarried 54-year-old man would want access to children.’ That statement in and of itself and the implication contained within is representable and discusting.”

In response to the public outcry the HISD Board President Paula Harris pledged that the board would reconsider their code of ethics for trustees to address such behavior. The board is scheduled to consider the revised code of ethics next week at the November 8 meeting.

The organizers of the protest ask that people planning to attend RSVP on the Facebook event they created. Anyone wishing to speak at the Board Meeting must sign up online by 4:30 pm on Wednesday, December 7. The Board receives public comments at the end of each meeting, which can be quite late in the evening.

—  admin

WATCH: HISD Board gets earful on anti-gay flier

Manuel Rodriguez

Trustee Manuel Rodriguez in the hot seat as public condemns his homophobia

A standing-room-only crowd greeted the Houston Independent School Board last night. While the board’s monthly meetings often attract an assortment of parents, community members and gadflies many in the crowd were there with a decidedly non-educational issue on their minds: the anti-gay flier distributed by Trustee Manuel Rodriguez during his recent reelection campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier encouraged Houstonians to vote against Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. because of his sexual orientation.

The first to address the issue were Rodriquez’s fellow trustees, Anna Eastman and Juliet Stipeche. Eastman spoke passionately of the importance of HISD’s anti-bullying policy which “protects people from harassment and bullying based on attributes we all have,” and said that she felt Rodriguez’s actions violated the spirit of that policy. Stipeche, near tears, read the names of teens who had committed suicide after enduring anti-LGBT bullying.

The board had planned to vote on a new ethics policy at the meeting that covered behavior by trustees. At the encouragement of two speakers, and the motion of Eastman, the board decided to delay that vote until December so that a policy stating that encouraging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression could be added.

After three and a half hours the crowd in the board’s chambers had dwindled, with most of those who had come to confront Rodriquez still waiting. When Board President Paula Harris finally opened the floor for public comment the first person to step up was Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Noel Freeman. Freeman told the board that the extant of Rodriquez’s homophobic campaigning was far greater than the flier which had drawn so much media attention. “What you all might not know is that he also went on television and said that he just couldn’t understand why a 54 year old unmarried man would want, quote ‘access to children,’” said Freeman. “That statement in and of itself, and the implications made therein is reprehensible and simply disgusting.”

Freeman asked that the Board remove Rodriquez as their representative on the Texas Council of School Boards, and as the board’s vice president. He went on to criticize the apology issued by Rodriquez after the election, saying that it did not address the concerns of the GLBT community, nor was it delivered to the community but rather to the press. “You cannot simply say ‘oops, I’m sorry’ and this all goes away,” said Freeman. “We will never forget what you did!”

Board President Harris had made frequent reference throughout the meeting to a group of students from HISD’s Milby High School, letting them know that their time to speak would come. As the students’ designated speaker stepped to the podium his hands visibly shook in nervousness. “When I first heard about [Rodriquez's flier] I did not agree with it because I believe that the message was that a gay person could not be as successful as a straight person and that really hurt me,” said the student. “My question to you is are you going to help us stop the bullying, or are you going to be a bully yourself?”

Perhaps the strongest response from the board was garnered by Paul Gonzales, who choked back tears as he described the challenges he faces as a gay man and parent of an HISD student. “I have a kid, and I have a kid that I have enrolled in HISD, and I love her. Me and my partner every single day are trying to show her that there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing wrong with our family. So for a board member to say that my family is reprehensible to him… I have to explain [to her] that there are still people who consider us not the kind of family that deserve respect,” said Paul to the board, who were fighting back tears of their own. “GLBT parents like myself trust HISD to give us that haven for our children, that they’re not going to be looked at any differently. But the words that we saw on this flier just made me cringe to think that this isn’t the place that I thought that it was.”

After the jump, watch some of the eighteen people who spoke to the board.

—  admin