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

FRC staffer likens U.S. to Sodom and Gomorrah; we wonder if Biblical city had universal healthcare

And now more Christmas cheer from Bob Maginnis, the Family Research Council‘s Senior Fellow for National Security:

“I’ve heard from commanders who are saying, ‘Well, we may not be able to tolerate that sort of [assertion] about homosexuality.’ What about the service member who is not a chaplain, but a Christian service member who has an understandable religious-based belief that what these people do is an abomination and that they should not embrace that lifestyle — especially if they’re told to live with someone like that?” the Pentagon advisor wonders. “Will they be listened to?”

But he laments that the military has refused to recommend segregating the homosexuals from heterosexual service members out of concern of antagonizing the homosexuals. So he decides America is now no better than Sodom and Gomorrah, the biblical cities mentioned in Genesis that are synonymous with impenitent sin that brought God’s wrath upon them.

Maginnis: U.S. no better than Sodom and Gomorrah [One News Now]

Honestly, it’s not even these folks repeated hostility towards gay people that’s so shocking. We, the proud crowd that gets marked for exportation and/or criminalization, 201012230842are more than used to that sort of thing. Why should the holidays put an end to it?

What is new and different in the DADT conversation is the way groups like FRC keep indicting heterosexual soldiers, making it sound as if our military is crawling with straight men and women whose violent tendencies towards other sexual orientations are hinging on a thin closet door. We of course all deserve better than what FRC offers up as discourse. But on this: It’s really the millions of perfectly adjusted men and women who serve our country with a brave heart and a peaceful mind who should resent the way the “values” crowd keeps presenting our armed forces as the world’s largest “Smear The Queer” team.

***

*NOTE: The audio version of this OneNewsNow report takes the segregation suggestion one step further, with the above line instead reading: “the military has refused to recommend segregating the homosexuals from [normal] service members.” Listen to that cheerful carol here.




Good As You

—  admin

‘Disgusting’ book: A field guide to biblical unicorns

Just in time for your “War on Christmas” shopping needs:

(PRWEB) August 23, 2010 — A new book entitled Being Gay is Disgusting, which irreverently paraphrases the first five books of the Judeo-Christian Bible, Bgid Cover Front Shas launched worldwide through amazon.com.

Australian author Edward Falzon has ‘faithfully’ paraphrased the first 2,700 years of biblical history, chapter-by-chapter, into a tome whose alternative title is ‘God Likes the Smell of Burning Fat.’ By removing the repetition and formality in the text, he says, “all that’s left is, frankly, the ridiculous.”



“There are laws passed all over the world restricting the rights of gays,” he says. “The UK’s Section 28 was only repealed in 2003, California’s Proposition 8 is brand new, and even in Australia, gay sex was illegal until 1994! The source of these and other laws and bigotry against gays is rooted firmly in the Bible, as if anti-homosexual rules are written on every page. But in fact, in the whole 1,500-page King James Bible, homosexuality is mentioned all of six times. By contrast, UNICORNS are mentioned nine times – 50% more often. Clearly, gay people weren’t a huge priority for Yahweh. But the way Christian groups carry on, the Bible might as well be called ‘Being Gay is Disgusting’ because the only laws passed nowadays that have anything to do with the Bible are about restricting the rights of the LGBT community. It’s bullshit. So my book is part-parody and part-protest.”


‘Being Gay is Disgusting’ – A New Take on an Old Testament [PR Web]

Just like its more respected cousin, we imagine this book will hold a shocking amount of appeal for those who like to get stoned.




Good As You

—  John Wright

Citing ‘Biblical Truth’, Iowa GOP Senate Candidate Dave Leach Agrees That AIDS is God’s Punishment for Homosexuality

Earlier in the week Iowa GOP Congressional candidate Jeremy Walters apologized for remarks written on his Facebook page saying that AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuality.

Leach Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn denounced Walters.

Yesterday, Dave Leach, a GOP candidate for the state senate there, came to Walters' defense, the Iowa Independent reports:

Leach, who is running against Democratic state Sen. Matt McCoy in Senate District 31, said Walters statement was 'theologically clumsy, but it seemed close enough to Biblical truth to not merit a censure from the Republican Party.'  … 'GOP head Matt Strawn is right in saying HIV does not discriminate; in other words, the fact that someone has HIV by no means proves they got it through sodomy,' Leach said in an e-mail to Strawn and The Iowa Independent. 'But I don’t see that that is what Jeremy said.'

Whether the Bible says there is a connection shouldn’t matter, he said, since, 'everyone knows there is this connection.'"

Said Leach:

"Everyone knows sodomites suffer [HIV/AIDS] far more than the rest of the population, and that sodomy’s practices, which are so embarrassingly unsanitary that you dare not detail them in one of your articles, would inevitably create such a disease if it did not already exist. It seems 'inappropriate,' to use Strawn’s word, to apologize for saying what the Bible says, with which everyone agrees. It is 'inappropriate' for anyone to ask such a thing. I am sorry that Jeremy gave up his ground, although at least he stood it for awhile, which is more than most will do."

And on a side note — that hat. Seriously?


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright