Participating in Day of Silence? Send us photos!

facebook_shared_DOS15_2Today is the Day of Silence, where thousands of students, faculty and staff at schools around the world take a vow of silence against anti-LGBT language, bullying and harassment. According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s National School Climate Survey, 85 percent of middle and high school students were verbally harassed in school in the past year and nearly two-thirds frequently heard anti-LGBT language among peers.

At the University of Texas at Arlington, members of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance will eat their lunch in silence from noon–2 p.m. in the University Center, according to the Shorthorn, the school’s student newspaper.

If your school or classmates have organized a similar event and you’d like to share any photos, please send them as an attachment to russell(at)dallasvoice(dot)com. We’ll post them on the Instant Tea blog.

—  James Russell

EXCLUSIVE: Former FWISD Superintendent Walter Dansby to challenge longtime trustee

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Former Fort Worth ISD President Christene Moss.

Sources have confirmed that former Fort Worth Independent School District Superintendent Walter Dansby will challenge incumbent Christene Moss in her re-election race.

Dansby had worked for the district for nearly 40 years in various capacities until his resignation as superintendent last summer. His last day as a district employee is Saturday, Jan. 31.

Moss was first elected to the board in 1990 and is a past board president. She was one of three board members who voted against Dansby’s resignation. She is married to former Fort Worth Councilman Frank Moss.

Filing for municipal elections runs today (Wednesday, Jan. 28) through Feb. 27.

—  James Russell

Texas AFT President and labor giant Linda Bridges has died

LindaReclaimLinda Bridges, president of the the American Federation of Teachers’ Texas chapter, educator and labor leader, died at her home in Austin today (Jan. 13). She was 65.

In a statement provided by AFT, Bridge was remembered as a passionate fighter for teachers and students.

“Linda was a true legend, a giant of the Texas labor movement,” said John Patrick, Texas AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer.

“Our union has lost a great leader, and I’ve lost a true friend,” said Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers president. “Linda was a beloved member of the AFT family. She woke up every morning with one goal on her mind: To make sure educators had a voice—a crucial element in helping all kids succeed. There was never a mountain too high, an obstacle too great or an opponent too fierce to derail her from that goal. She’s one of a kind. We will so miss her, but I know we will all try to emulate her kind spirit, strong leadership and tireless advocacy for students, parents and communities. Our prayers are with Linda’s family today. Please know that her legacy will continue on.”

Bridges started her career in education as an elementary special education teacher in the Corpus Christi Independent School District.  She was a charter member of the Corpus Christi American Federation of Teachers and served as president of the local union for 24 years. She became president of Texas AFT in 2005. Under her leadership, membership grew from some 48,000 members to more than 65,000.

According to a statement released by AFT-Texas, Bridges is credited for pioneering “elected consultation” method for organizing workers in “right-to-work” states. The designation allows the organization, usually formed in an election process, to formally negotiate with a district on employee wages, benefits and working conditions.

She is survived by her partner, Kay Lee.

Services are pending at this time and will be announced on the Texas AFT Web site at www.texasaft.org.

—  James Russell

Wendy Davis proposes first of education reforms

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis

Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis

Texas gubernatorial candidate Sen. Wendy Davis spoke to the press at University of Texas Arlington Thursday to lay out the first part of her education plan. In the 2011 legislative session, she filibustered the multi-billion dollar cut to education and was among the principle senators who pushed the anti-bullying bill through the Senate Education Committee.

“Education is a conversation we plan to have over the course of the campaign,” Davis said. “Great schools create a great Texas.”

The first part of her education plan revealed Thursday involves teacher. To train more teachers, Davis proposed that any high school junior in the top 20 percent of the class would gain early admission to a Texas college in a teacher-training program. Student loan forgiveness would be tied to teaching service with two years of teaching forgiving one year of debt.

She also proposed bringing Texas teacher salaries up to the national average.

“We need to show teachers they were worth the investment,” she said.

Her program also would increase the number of school counselors, and a program dropped in 2012 would help teacher’s aides go back to school to gain certification as full-time teachers.

 

—  David Taffet

WATCH: GLSEN student ambassadors, executive director on Great Day Houston

Dr. Eliza Byard

Dr. Eliza Byard

The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) executive director Dr. Eliza Byard and GLSEN Student Ambassadors Tommy Surratt and Gabe Maffuz stopped by Great Day Houston last week to talk about the organiation’s efforts. Surratt, who is straight, was joined by his father Jim Surratt who talked briefly about the discrimination that the children of same-sex couples face in schools.

—  admin

Al Franken asks public for help passing Student Non-Discrimination Act

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken, D – Minnesota, is asking the public for help passing S. 555, The Student Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would prohibit discrimination against public school students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the provisions of S. 555 students who experienced discrimination because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or because of their association with LGBT people could bring a civil suit against the school officials or districts responsible for the discrimination. The bill currently has 34 co-sponsors (none from Texas) and its House companion (H.R. 998 by Rep. Jared Polis, D – Colorado) has 150 (with 7 Texan co-sponsors including Houston’s own Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green) . Both bills have been referred to committee but neither has received a hearing, a crucial step towards becoming law.

In the video requesting the public call their Senators (after the break) Franken points out that federal law already provides protection for school children harassed because of race, color, sex, religion, disability, and national origin, but that no protection exists for sexual orientation or gender identity.

The inclusion of “association” in S. 555 is particularly well thought out. According to the Williams Institute nearly 1 in 5 same-sex couples in the United States is raising children, in Harris County 18% of same-sex couples are.  As these children enter school it’s important that they be able to receive an education without harassment or bullying due to who their parents are.

Franken is asking people to call the Senate switchboard at 202-224-3121 and encourage their Senator’s to support the bill.

—  admin

Remembering John Lawrence, the man behind Lawrence v. Texas

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John Lawrence and Tyrone Gardner

Metro Weekly reports that one-time Houstonian John Geddes Lawrence, the “Lawrence” in Lawrence v. Texas, passed away last month at the age of 68:

“In the facts underlying the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested under Texas’s Homosexual Conduct Law after police entered Lawrence’s home on Sept. 17, 1998, and saw them “engaging in a sexual act.” The couple challenged the law as unconstitutional”

I was 22 and living in Dallas in 2003 when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lawrence declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional. A group of over 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Resource Center of Dallas as Dennis Coleman, then with Lambda Legal, read excerpts of the decision. I remember the exuberant electricity in the air, the crowd bubbling with joy and the relief of centuries of official oppression finally coming to an end. Similar get-togethers took place across the state, as an entire community breathing a collective sigh of relief.

That relief has turn to frustration over the years. Although the Supreme Court decision rendered Penal Code Section 21.06 unconstitutional, the law remains on the books, and efforts to remove it have met with significant resistance. During a hearing this spring on finally removing the unconstitutional law, Rep. Jose Aliseda, R – Pleasanton, lamented that repeal of the law would entail removing portions of the Health Code requiring that HIV education efforts include information that “homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.”

Before Lawrence several attempts were made to remove the law against “homosexual conduct.” The Texas legislature voted to remove it from the penal code as part of a complete rewrite of the code in 1971, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Preston Smith. In 1973 the Legislature again undertook a rewrite of the code, keeping “homosexual conduct” a crime but making it a class C misdemeanor. In 1981 a U.S. District Court ruled in Baker v. Wade that the law was unconstitutional, but as that case was winding its way through an unusually torturous appeals process the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that a similar law in Georgia was constitutional, making the questions in Baker moot. Similarly, in the 90′s there was hope that Texas v. Morales might finally prevail in defeating the “homosexual conduct” prohibition, but the Texas Supreme Court decided that since, in their opinion, the law was rarely enforced, there was no reason for them to rule in the matter.

Lawrence’s legacy lives on in a scholarship named after him and Garner administered by the Houston GLBT Community Center. The scholarship “recognizes outstanding leadership shown by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Texas high school seniors and college
students by contributing to the cost of their continuing education. Selection is based upon character and need.” Tim Brookover, president of the community center, expressed sorrow at Lawrence’s passing “John was a hero, the community owes a great debt of gratitude to John and Tyrone for taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Brookover. “They could have easily allowed it to slip away, but they decided to stay and fight and that makes them heroes and role models.”

The application deadline for the John Lawrence/Tyrone Gardner Scholarship is March 2, 2012.

—  admin

Early voting in runoff election off to slow start

For those who missed it, there is an election happening in Houston right now. Four City Council races wound up in run-offs after the November 8 municipal elections and Houstonians have until December 10 to decide the fate of these crucial races.  So far fewer than 2,000 people have voted. Without a “big ticket” item like the mayor’s race at the top of the ballot turnout in the runoff is expected to be very low. The upshot of which is that every ballot cast carries more weight than ever.

Two of the races are at-large seats, so every citizen of Houston gets to vote on this races:

  • In At-large position 2 former State Representative Kristi Thibaut faces Andrew C. Burks Jr. Pastor of Bailey Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • In At-large position 5 incumbent council member Jolanda Jones faces Jack Christie, former State Board of Education member .

Two of the races are for district seats, so only people who live in those districts get to vote on these races:

  • In District A incumbent council member Brenda Stardig faces republican activist Helena Brown.
  • In District B local restauranteur and education advocate Jerry Davis faces Alvin Byrd, current staffer for council member Jarvis Johnson.

Early voting continues through December 6th, election day is November 8. Voters may cast their ballot at any early voting location. Visit harrisvotes.org to find your election day polling location (it may be different than your November polling place) and to view a sample ballot.

—  admin

Arlington man sentenced to 14 months for hate crime arson at mosque

Henry Clay Glaspell

U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means this week sentenced Henry Clay Glaspell, 34, of Arlington, to 14 months in prison after Gaspell pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge in connection with an arson fire at the children’s playground at the Dar El-Eman Islamic Education Center in Arlington in July 2010, according to this report from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Means ordered Glaspell, who has been free on bond, to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on Nov. 21.

Glaspell also admitted that he had stolen and damaged some of the mosque’s property, that he had thrown used cat litter at the mosque’s front door and that he had shouted racial and ethnic slurs at people at the mosque on several occasions. Glaspell said his actions were motivated by hatred for people of Arabic or Middle Eastern descent.

Texas legislators passed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which allows enhanced penalties to be assessed to those convicted of hate crimes. But while hate crimes are frequently reported and labeled as such by law enforcement, prosecutors rarely take hate crimes charges to court for fear that it would be too hard to prove a perpetrator’s bias-based intent to a jury.

—  admin

Dallas gets $1.28M HUD grant for HIV/AIDS

Officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have announced the allocation of nearly $9 million in grants to projects in seven states that provide permanent and transitional housing and support services to people with HIV/AIDS.

Of that total, $1,287,500 will be allocated to the city of Dallas’ Housing and Community Services Department, the only city or agency in Texas to receive one of the seven HUD grants. The money will be used to provide transitional housing support to 60 ex-offenders over the next three years. According to the HUD press release, the Housing and Community Services Department will be working with the city’s Project Reconnect and the Department of Justice’s Second Chance Act in providing the housing and services.

And the city has committed to “creating an Integrated HIV/AIDS Housing Plan through a comprehensive community planning effort that involves 20 local partners operating in the eight county Dallas Metropolitan Statistical Area,” according to HUD. No word yet on whether those partners will include AIDS Services of Dallas, which is located in Oak Cliff and provides housing for as many as 225 men, women and children impacted by HIV/AIDS through 125 units in four complexes.

The largest of the grants, $1,375,000, is going to the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV. The city of Portland, Ore., gets the second-largest total with $1,365,900. River Region Human Services Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., is getting $1,353,743, and the Corporation for AIDS Research Education and Services Inc. in Albany and Rochester, N.Y., gets $1,344,375.

Dallas is next on the list, followed by Justice Resource Institute Inc. in Boston, which gets $1,223,377. Rounding out the recipient list is the Frannie Peabody Center, a statewide organization in Maine, that is receiving $930,909.

The seven recipients were chosen “through a national HOPWA competition to identify special projects of national significance that will help advance understanding and improve the delivery of housing and care for persons with HIV,” according to HUD.

—  admin