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

Starvoice • 09.16.11

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Twiggy turns 62 on Monday. Known mostly for her mod, androgynous look of the ’60s, the style icon was one of fashion’s first supermodels. She returned to fashion somewhat as a judge on America’s Next Top Model, but left in 2007. Also a singer, she is working on a new album of ballad covers due in November.

…………………

THIS WEEK

Mars entering Leo inflates energy and egos, and trine to Uranus in Aries, will lead to unexpected results. Stubborn assertion will lead to wacky disasters. Be bold, but adaptive and humble for best results.

…………………

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Self-consciousness leads you to fashion disasters. Play with a new look where nobody except a trusted friend can to see it, just so you can be satisfied that it is indeed wrong for you.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
Domestic victories make you cocky.  Better to offer an olive branch and build reconciliation. Don’t dread the cake with all those candles. Focus on accomplishments and goals.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Count on your friends to help you get ahead. Keep your eyes open to colleagues who might double-cross you. Don’t worry: A rude surprise can prove a blessing in disguise.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
Teamwork gets anything accomplished, so be attentive to those who can make or break your efforts. They’re inclined to support you, but they want credit and generally deserve it.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Focus on your career and getting ahead. You can focus on your goals with little interference. The boss is about to take notice and is likely to be very supportive. Just let your work speak for itself.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Connect with older, well-educated people. You can learn a lot and get a clearer idea of your direction in life. You can’t help but say the wrong thing to your partner, but you’ll be fine.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Even sweet, affable chatter can get annoying. Staying between the extremes is your biggest challenge. Lean to the quiet side. Letting them wonder will arouse more interest in you.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
You want to have fun, but work demands time and energy. Getting boisterous upsets things and exposes resentments. It doesn’t matter if they’re jealous. Focus your energies productively.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Be as productive as possible while your discipline and drive are especially sharp. Worries about the future are distractions. Just stay the course; keep putting one foot in front of the other.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
The coming social season puts you in greater demand. Fix up your home now to be ready for company then. Friends’ one-upmanship will throw you off your game. Ignore it.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
Social opportunities abound. You’re happier at home with your dearest and nearest, and some of your favorite recipes, but get out and develop connections. They’ll serve you well.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Your state of mind changes more than your finances, but you can relax. Your energy is cranking up and leads you into interesting adventures. Look for new ideas, not arguments!

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Starvoice • 09.09.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Jennifer Hudson turns 30 on Monday.
The Oscar winner has made headlines in the recent past mostly on her weight loss. She talks to Self magazine this month about losing over 80 pounds. This year, she returns to the big screen in Winnie, portraying Nelson Mandela’s wife, and in 2012’s The Three Stooges.

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THIS WEEK

Venus coming home to Libra normally helps us to be more gracious, social and polite. Opposing Uranus on the way in whips up some crazy ideas of what that might mean. Compassion and imagining yourself in the other’s position is usually the best way to start out.

…………………..

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
You find amazing deals at estate sales, perhaps even your true love. If you already have one, bring him or her along and you find some treasure that will become an emblematic keepsake.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
You’re looking especially gorgeous. The attention you get will surprise you. Of course you’re not just a pretty face; a new contact could prove very helpful as a colleague.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Hiding out from the social whirl may give you peace, but doesn’t do much for your anxieties. Hum the first tune that comes to mind. That song will offer insights to face your worries.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Party it up but don’t go overboard. Seek out new, interesting, unusual people at these events. Their perspectives can trigger new insights into your own roots.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Career opportunities are looking good, but are you prepared? Know your strengths and the difference between reaching and overreaching. Work causes you to neglect issues at home.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Think a little harder before opening your mouth. Does it really need to be said? Your words carry more weight than you realize. Treat them like currency and don’t waste them.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Opportunities abound as Venus is flashing her goodies in your house of illicit pleasures. She offers a deeper challenge to re-
examine your priorities and values.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
You’re suddenly looking marriageable no matter what local laws allow. Let someone special see your inner wounds. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable shows confidence in both of you.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
A friend in need is a pain in the ass. You have your own problems. Even so, helping out your pal can not only get you out of your own problems for a bit, but help point you to a solution.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Your idea of social outreach is a little outré. One on one is fine for scaring off people you don’t want to deal with, but if you’re working with a group, behave accordingly.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
New recipes go better than you’d hoped for. Even if things screw up, you get points for trying. At work keep your boss up on any experiments, just in case.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Advice is not necessarily appreciated, as you could find out the hard way. An earnest, soul-searching talk about sex can be more satisfying than actually doing it. Not that one rules out the other.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

New videos from Sia and The Superions

Sia grabbed most people’s attention with “Breathe Me,” that unforgettable song from the final episode of Six Feet Under. The lesbian singer released her fifth album, We Are Born, this year and premiered her newest video just last week. It’s a bit on the slow side so it may not rev your Monday up as you’d like. But she does that dreamy, melancholy sound so well. Watch it below.

Meanwhile, Fred Schneider from The B-52′s went with his side project band The Superions for the holidays. The trio released the awful album Destination…Christmas! The album should have been funnier, but instead was just song after song of idiocy. A couple of songs did stand out and one was Santa Je T’aime. The video isn’t hardcore but is probably NSFW. Men in drag with big fake breasts might just throw off your boss or snooping IT person. It’s also ridiculous (as have all their videos been for the album) and loses the humor of the song. I just want to take Schneider and shake him for releasing such bad work. How could this be when he’s so much fun with The B-52′s? It’s distressing, but I am kinda loving their T-shirt for sale which is also a title of one of their songs:

Watch both videos after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Concert Notice: Jay Brannan returns to Dallas this December

It is my duty to report to you that gay musician Jay Brannan will be coming to Dallas this December. He returns to The Loft where he played last summer. I profiled him before that show which I thought went well. After my review of his show, it all went downhill. Brannan himself commented the following on our little ole Instant Tea blog.

jay brannan
Posted on July 21, 2009 at 1:17 pm (Edit)

based on how nasty you and your boss have been to me, i regret giving you an interview at all, especially when i really didn’t have the time, went out of my way to speak with you, and i only do a limited amount of gay press (b/c they are always so entitled and bitchy and critical as you both have been in your writing)

i assure you i will never do anything with the dallas voice again!

and i can’t believe i even gave you free tickets to the show!

jay

Of course, that second to last line kinda burst our bubble, but still, we only want his fans to know he’s coming back. Last year’s show was a packed house. He’s set to play The Loft on Dec. 14. Doors at 7:30. Tickets are on sale right now.

—  Rich Lopez

If Jarrett cares about LGBT kids killing themselves, her boss should stop saying gays aren’t equal

Here’s an excerpt of White House adviser Valerie Jarrett’s remarks tonight at the HRC annual “No Excuses” dinner.

I cry bullshit. From Politico:

–From Jarrett’s prepared remarks: “Recently, we’ve all been shocked and heartbroken by the deaths of several young people who had been harassed and bullied for being openly gay – or because people thought they were gay. It’s a terrible tragedy. And it has turned a harsh spotlight onto an issue that often doesn’t get the public attention it deserves: the struggles of LGBT youth, the enormous pain that too many experience as a result of bullying, and the desperate, tragic decision by some young people who feel that their only recourse is to take their own lives. …

“No young person should have to endure a life of relentless taunts and harassment, just because they’re gay. On behalf of President Obama, I want to make clear that this administration is firmly committed to working with you and other advocates. For we all have to ensure that we are creating an environment in our schools, our communities, and our country, that is safe for every person, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

If you care so much about gay kids being bullied and committing suicide, then start being our fierce advocate. Stop defending DADT and DOMA in court. Stop the DADT discharges now. Start doing something, anything, on getting ENDA passed and DOMA repealed, like you promised. And, if the President isn’t too busy calling more female basketball stars, maybe he could be bothered to make even one phone call to even one Senator on DADT repeal.

Oh yeah, and the next time you claim to be shocked and saddened by all these gay kids killing themselves, ask yourself what message you’re sending when you tell those same kids that they don’t deserve to be married, they don’t deserve to love and be loved, because God wouldn’t like it. (Of course, Barack Obama was for marriage equality before he decided to be President, but then again, he was for a lot of things before he became President.)

Words, words, words, Valerie. We’ve heard it before. And we’re over it. Words mean nothing from this President. When you and your boss finally decide to actually support full equality, when you decide to actually become our fierce advocate on DADT, DOMA and ENDA, then get back to us.  Our kids are killing themselves.  And you’ve got more important things to worry about.  Come 2012, so will we.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Change of plans • Defining Homes

So you want to be a real estate agent. Just be sure you know what you’re in for

By Rich Lopez

Dan FlynnNo one needs to remind you that these are tough economic times. Sometimes that means calling for serious measures like a career change. Real estate is an attractive industry because the rewards can be great for the bank account and you get to be your own boss. But before you dive head first into the waters, there is some information to know and consider. Hey, it’s a new career — what did you think?.

“Those not in the industry have some great idea that you walk into a real estate office and clients walk through the door and you make giant commissions,” Realtor Dan Flynn of Dave Perry-Miller Intown says. “The reality is nothing drops into your lap.”

Flynn has been in the real estate industry for 16 years, switching over from the telecom industry. When getting into real estate, he followed all the right steps, but had to face the realities of going into what he calls a very expensive career option. According to him, that is the one piece of information, people need to know.

“You pay for everything yourself,” he says. “You pay the broker to allow your license to hang in their office and you pay a portion of your commission to the broker as well. There are some very large expenses and you must have income to offset those in addition to earning income as you go.”

Don’t let that scare you. Flynn wants only to guide those interested in joining the industry and provide the information and insight he could have used when he began. That insight actually comes in handy even before getting your agent’s license.

“When thinking about getting a license, you want to consider the ultimate goal.  People can become a broker after becoming an agent. Also, consider transferable college credits when applying for real estate classes. You will want those credits behind you when the time comes to sit for that exam.”

Before any exam, there is study time and coursework is necessary to get to the test.
However, classes are available either online or in classroom form for those who can benefit from peer review. Accelerated plans are an option for those eager, like Flynn, to begin selling homes.

“The required courses came easy to me because everything seemed logical and natural,” he says. “I do understand getting through the coursework and tests through school can be very arduous for many.”

So you got your license — now what? Flynn emphasizes the money issue because there are fees and costs to be easily missed. Plus, if you are planning this as your day job, more financial planning is needed. National, state and local associations will have fees. MLS charges, for electronic key usage to get into homes will rack up, as will self-employment taxes, marketing materials (i.e. business cards). Brokers may require more education so they are up to speed and insurance is a must to cover any mistakes made. And even your clothing.

“You will be expected to dress and present yourself in a certain way,” he says. “Make certain you have one full year’s expenses tucked away in a bank account somewhere to pay the rent, car, whatever. It can be overwhelming. Just be prepared.”

Now you can head out into the field. If people aren’t going to drop in your lap, then you start hitting up the people around you. Flynn says this is the best way to start getting the word out about your new career and how you can help those who know you.

“You must go out and find all of the clients you work with,” he says. “You start with your personal sphere of influence and work outward.”

One thing Flynn brings up is somewhat of a surprise. Hanging your license isn’t like hanging up your diploma. A strong broker can shape a new career into a successful one and where you hang it is a crucial decision. Your new real estate license is indicative to potential clients of your reliability.

“Interview with many agencies,” he says. “Unlike looking for regular employment, you are not trying to get them to take you on so much as they are trying to convince you to come their way. My experience tells me there are extremely few options for new agents so when interviewing, look for those places that encourage you to come to the office to work and for free or low-cost education and have someone assigned to you for help.”

……………………………..

First, know this

Before heading into the real estate world, the least you need to know are the requirements set by the Texas Real Estate Commission. Meet all these and you are on your way.

• You must be a U.S. citizen who resides in-state and be 18 years old.

• Texas law requires 210 hours of coursework to be  completed.

• Before applying for the state exam, proof of course completion is required.

• Apply for the state examination for your inactive salesperson license. This is done online at the TREC website.

• Pass the state examination.

• Filing an application authorizes a background check.

• Obtain sponsorship from your broker to activate your license. You are unable to practice prior to active licensure.

This information is from eHow.com under How to Become a Real Estate Agent in Texas and at the TREC.state.tx.us.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of Defining Homes Magazine October 8, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

What does Ken Mehlman have to say about his former boss, anti-gay Texas Rep. Lamar Smith?

Congressman Lamar Smith, R-Texas

If we could ask Ken Mehlman only one question, it might just be something about his one-time boss Lamar Smith.

Mehlman, the formerly anti-gay former RNC chair who recently came out as gay, served as Smith’s legislative director in the 1990s. Smith, meanwhile, seems to be vying for the title of No. 1 homophobe in Congress.

• In August, Smith sponsored a resolution to condemn U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

• Also in August, Smith announced plans to introduce federal legislation that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.

• And now, Smith is asking a federal court to allow him to intervene in a case to help defend the Defense of Marriage Act, according to Keen News Service. The Alliance Defense Fund announced Tuesday it had filed motions on behalf of Smith asking to intervene in two cases in which a U.S. district judge in Massachusetts declared DOMA unconstitutional. The ADF argues on behalf of Smith that the Obama administration isn’t doing enough to defend the 1996 law, which some gay-rights activists don’t think the administration should be defending at all.

Interestingly, Smith’s Democratic opponent in November, Lainey Melnick, touts her opposition to DOMA prominently in the issues section of her website:

“It will be up to the [Supreme Court] to decide if the Defense of Marriage Act violates the Constitution by forcing the states to discriminate against same-sex couples,” Melnick writes. “This decision could uphold that federal encroachment over the areas where states have sovereign jurisdiction, such as with marriage, is unconstitutional and leaves marriage in the hands of the states. This question is to be answered by the courts, not the Congress. But I do believe that the US Constitution provides equal rights for all people, including same sex couples who want to get married, who want to own property, who want to make medical decisions, who want to share insurance expenses, who want to immigrate, who want to work, who want to serve in our military, and who deserve to live their lives free of discrimination.”

Unfortunately, Smith represents a pretty safe Republican district in Central Texas, and Melnick is facing some long odds. But who knows, maybe Smith’s one-time legislative director, Ken Mehlman, has something to tell us about him.

—  John Wright

Betty White: Fashion Boss

BETTY WHITE HOODIEBUDDIE X390 | ADVOCATE.COMIf Betty White asks you to sew, you better ask “How fast?”
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Joseph Rocha’s Abusive Navy Boss Michael Toussaint Expected To Walk Away With Full Taxpayer-Funded Pension

toussaint

Michael Toussaint, the disgraced Navy senior chief petty officer allegedly responsible (although he says otherwise) for leading a canine unit in Bahrain that involved the degradation of sailors, including the anti-gay abuse of Joseph Rocha, just might glide into retirement with a full pension.

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

—  John Wright