TX school district denies student was removed from cheerleading squad over gay kiss

Last Friday we told you about a male cheerleader at Alice High School in South Texas who said he’d been kicked off the squad — and suspended from school — for kissing another male student. The 17-year-old cheerleader said the kiss was caught on a school surveillance camera, and he claimed officials had targeted him because of his sexual orientation.

This afternoon, the Alice Independent School District released a statement saying the student’s removal from the cheerleading squad will remain in effect. The district said the student wasn’t removed from the squad for kissing another student. However, citing privacy concerns, the district says it cannot elaborate on the reason for his removal. Here’s the full text of the statement sent via email to Instant Tea (view the PDF here):

The Alice I.S.D. has recently reviewed the recent removal of a student from the Alice High School Cheerleading Squad. After reviewing the Alice I.S.D. Student Code of Conduct and the Cheer Program Handbook, the removal will stay in effect. The student’s parents are in agreement with the district’s decision. The student code of conduct and cheer handbook are designed to improve conduct and encourage students to adhere to their responsibilities as members of the school community. The student and parents are clearly aware that the student was not removed from the squad for kissing another student at school. While the student is free to discuss certain aspects of his discipline in the media, the District cannot discuss the specifics of this incident and must respect the privacy rights of the students involved in this matter.

The district’s statement today is similar to one released by the school principal late Friday, according to KRISTV.com:

In a written statement given to Six News, Principal Lucy Munoz stated “the district does not suspend students for kissing other students at school, regardless of the gender of the student.” However, the statement did not list a specific reason for the student’s suspension. The statement went on to say that the district is still reviewing the matter, but added that the “Cheer Program Handbook requires students to adhere to a higher standard of conduct than that which applies to the general student population.”

—  John Wright

Anti-bullying bill to be heard by Senate panel

Sen. Wendy Davis

The Senate Educate Committee will hold hearings on Tuesday, March 22 at 8:30 a.m. on several anti-bullying bills, including a measure authored by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, that’s backed by Equality Texas.

Davis’ bill is the Senate companion to a bill by Rep. Mark Strama’s that was heard in committee a few weeks ago.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, said the group is focusing on Davis’ and Strama’s bills because they’re the most comprehensive and have been carefully crafted over two years.

Testifying in support of Davis’ bill Tuesday will be David and Amy Truong, the parents of gay suicide victim Asher Brown. Also attending the committee hearing will be the parents of Montana Lance, who hung himself in the school nurse’s office in his elementary school in the Colony, and the parents of Jon Carmichael from Joshua. Jon was 13 when he committed suicide at home after school bullying. Montana was 9.

Senate committee hearings can be watched online here.

Friday’s Dallas Voice will feature a story about David and Amy Truong and how Asher’s suicide has changed their lives.

—  David Taffet

Disorder in the court — again

Last week, all hell broke loose in the Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting when some folks angry over what was, in effect, the firing of County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbert decided to express that anger to the person they considered primarily responsible for something they saw as unfair: Commissioner John Wiley Price.

One speaker, Dallas lawyer Jeff Turner, a white man, used the term “chief mullah” in referring to Price, who is black. Price said he heard Turner say, “chief moolah” and considered it a racist term. Price, in term, noted that all the speakers criticizing him were white and suggested they all “Go to hell.”  He reportedly told the speakers to go to hell several times, and even said, “You too, fat boy,” to another speaker.

Today, though, County Judge Clay Jenkins was determined not to let things get out of hand. But some folks, according to this report by Dallas Morning News, went a little too far. DMN says Jenkins refused to allow any speaker to say anything at all critical about the court as a whole or any of the commissioners — something that those who got gaveled down by Jenkins considered to be downright unconstitutional.

What did Commissioner Price think? His comment was, “You wanted decorum, you got decorum.”

The Morning News also reports that the court has passed a new code of conduct for themselves, but didn’t say what the new conduct requires.

My favorite part of the whole thing though was this comment posted on the DMN story by a reader: “I miss [openly gay former County] Judge [Jim] Foster already.”

—  admin

DISD prohibits offensive language related to ‘gender orientation,’ whatever the hell that means

As Instant Tea continues our review of the Dallas Independent School District’s policies related to harassment, bullying and discrimination, we’ve come across something rather peculiar.

It’s on Page 5 of DISD’s “2010-2011 Student Code of Conduct,” in a section titled “General Guidelines and Notifications” and under a headline that reads “Offensive Language.” Here’s what it says:

“Such language includes, but is not limited to, the use of slurs or offensive language related to race, ethnicity, gender and/or gender orientation, disability and religious beliefs.”

Below is a screen grab lest you think we could make this stuff up, but you can also view the entire Code of Conduct by going here.

Now, can someone please explain to me the definition of “gender orientation”? And after you’ve done that, can you give me an example of offensive language related to “gender orientation”? Actually, please don’t. But do they mean “sexual orientation” or “gender identity”? Or both? Or neither? Because those are two totally different things. Is this a typo? Or is it a deliberate attempt to avoid the word “sexual” in a handbook that is distributed to students?

Well, we plan to try to find out. But in the meantime, Resource Center Dallas is preparing to launch a campaign to demand that DISD include specific protections for LGBT students in its new anti-bullying policy, which is set to be discussed during a Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday. We’ll have more on RCD’s campaign here in just a few. So don’t go away, and if you do, come right back. We’re just getting warmed up.

—  John Wright

Microsoft rules offended everyone

We’ve reached a point in America where many companies seek to do right by gay people. Once in a while, they get bit on the butt for it.

GOOGLE IT — 25514  |  Where in the world is Fort Gay, W.Va.? An online map can tell you.
GOOGLE IT — 25514 | Where in the world is Fort Gay, W.Va.? An online map can tell you.

Microsoft recently lost a piece of its posterior to 26-year-old Josh Moore of West Virginia. Moore is an avid gamer, and as an unemployed factory worker, he’s got plenty of time to indulge his passion for Microsoft’s Xbox Live.

Moore favors “shooters” like “Call of Duty,” “Medal of Honor” and “Ghost Recon.” Since I don’t know “Ghost Recon” from Casper the Friendly Ghost, I’m out of my depth here.

But I do grasp that people play these games online, and Moore was gearing up for a “Search and Destroy” competition when Microsoft searched and destroyed him, or at least his alter ego.

The colossal corporation suspended Moore’s gaming privileges, believing he had violated Xbox Live’s code of conduct.
In his profile, Moore had listed his hometown as Fort Gay.

Can you see where this is going?

Fort Gay is a real town of about 800 located along West Virginia’s border with Kentucky. But somebody, presumably a fellow gamer, smelled insult among the bullets, explosions and general mayhem, and complained to the Xbox Live folks.

“Someone took the phrase ‘fort gay WV’ and believed that the individual who had that was trying to offend, or trying to use it in a pejorative manner,” said Stephen Toulouse, director of policy and enforcement for Xbox Live, to The Associated Press. “Unfortunately, one of my people agreed with that.”

Moore found himself up a creek without a joystick.

“At first I thought, ‘Wow, somebody’s thinking I live in the gayest town in West Virginia or something.’ I was mad … It makes me feel like they hate gay people,” Moore said. “I’m not even gay, and it makes me feel like they were discriminating.”

I am gay, and I’m confused.

It’s not clear whether Moore thought Microsoft or the person who complained was discriminating against gays.  Either way, Microsoft and the complainer were actually trying to do the opposite.

Moore intended no offense. Microsoft intended to prevent offense.  Moore was offended.

Who, huh, wha’?

An angry Moore called customer service, figuring he could explain that Fort Gay really exists. But the representative said if Moore put Fort Gay in his profile again, Xbox Live would cancel his account and keep his money.

Now I know whom they use as a model for their games’ tough-guy characters.

“I told him, Google it — 25514!” Moore said, listing Fort Gay’s ZIP code. “He said, ‘I can’t help you.’”

Fort Gay Mayor David Thompson got involved, and I can just imagine his call to customer service: “What do you people think I’m the mayor of, Brigadoon?”

Even if Thompson managed to convince the representative of Fort Gay’s existence, it didn’t solve Moore’s problem. The mayor was told the city’s name didn’t matter — the word “gay” was inappropriate in any context.

Hmmmm. Protecting us by eliminating us. Making us as ghostly as Casper. I’m feeling mighty pallid.

The employee got that wrong, said Toulouse, the Xbox Live rules enforcer. The player’s contract says users may not write profile text that could offend others. But the Code of Conduct says players can use such words as gay and transgender in their profile.

Toulouse said the company has modified its training, and he planned to apologize to Moore.

Microsoft might be feeling that no good deed goes unpunished. In this swirl of good intentions, the vacuum sucked up everybody.

It’s a good thing, though, that this incident showed the Xbox honchos they need to refine their procedures — before they get calls from Gay, Mich., and Gay, Ga.

Leslie Robinson’s brother-in-law works for Microsoft, and his attempts to educate her are downright noble. E-mail her at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and visit her blog at GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gamer suspended over name of W.Va. town: Fort Gay

VICKI SMITH | Associated Press

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Microsoft Corp. and Xbox Live are apologizing to a West Virginia town and a 26-year-old gamer accused of violating the online gaming service’s code of conduct by declaring he’s from Fort Gay.

The town in western West Virginia is real. But Seattle-based Microsoft and the Xbox Live enforcement team wouldn’t take Josh Moore’s word for it.

They suspended his gaming privileges for a few days last week until he could convince them his Wayne County hometown is real.

Xbox Live chief enforcement officer Stephen Toulouse acknowledges the agent reviewing a fellow gamer’s complaint against Moore made a mistake. He says keeping up with slang and policing Xbox Live for offensive language is challenging, but mistakes in judgment are rare.

Toulouse says training has since been updated.

—  John Wright