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

Watch: Stephen Colbert Interviews Gay Facebook Co-Founder Chris Hughes About His New Project ‘Jumo’

Hughes

Last night, Stephen Colbert interviewed gay Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes about the personal fortune he made from Facebook, his work for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and his new project, Jumo, which helps people connect with non-profit organizations, learn their stories, and volunteer or donate.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Chris Hughes
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> Video Archive

 


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Kerry Eleveld interviews Hillary Clinton

The Obama administration floodgates seem to have opened wide, in terms of press availabilities with the gay media.

Feeling your way through an interview with one of the world’s most powerful women is more art than science. Marriage seemed like the place to start, since Clinton had been caught off guard by a recent inquiry on the issue while visiting Australia. Her husband has said that he now supports full marriage equality: Many of his gay friends are in committed relationships, former president Bill Clinton said in 2009. As far as marriage goes, he said, he had just been “hung up about the word.”

Did she share his experience? I wondered. Was she at odds with President Barack Obama’s stated position in support of civil unions but against marriage equality?

But on the phone, Clinton is circumspect about her husband’s comments. “Well, I share his experience because we obviously share a lot of the same friends, but I have not changed my position,” she says without elaborating. The secretary wasn’t taking any political bait, nor was she going to tangle with anything that could figure negatively for her boss.




AMERICAblog Gay

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Watch: CNN Interviews Daniel Hernandez, the Gay Intern Credited with Saving Congresswoman Giffords’ Life

Hernandez

Daniel Hernandez Jr., the gay intern who helped Gabreille Giffords survive in the moments after she was shot and is being credited by many with saving her life, does not take credit to doing so, instead crediting emergency personnel. In this interview, he discusses those moments and the actions he took before medical crews arrived on the scene.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP



Towleroad News #gay

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CNN Interviews Gay Hero Daniel Hernandez On Rep. Giffords Shooting


(Via – AmericaBlog)

Joe. My. God.

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Watch: Al Jazeera Interviews Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange

Assange

Al Jazeera interviews Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Meanwhile, Norway's main business newspaper Aftenposten today became the only media outlet to obtain all 250,000+ Wikileaks cables. What it will do with them is unclear:

Aftenposten news editor Ole Erik Almlid told Dagens Naerings: "We're free to do what we want with these documents … We're free to publish the documents or not publish the documents, we can publish on the internet or on paper. We are handling these documents just like all other journalistic material to which we have gained access."

In related news, the CIA has set up a task force to deal with Wikileaks, called, appropriately, WTF:

"Officially, the panel is called the WikiLeaks Task Force. But at CIA headquarters, it's mainly known by its all-too-apt acronym: W.T.F."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP



Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

David Pakman of Midweek Politics interviews AFA’s deranged homo-hater Bryan Fischer

Friend of the Blend and Midweek Politics ace interviewer David Pakman has a can’t-miss interview with homo-hater Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association —  and you won’t believe that garbage is spewing out of Fischer’s mouth. OK, you can probably imagine some of the filth, but look at the choice quotes below the videos.

Bryan Fischer, American Family Association Director of Issues Analysis and the Host of “Focal Point” on AFR Talk joins David Pakman to discuss ex-gays, quitting homosexuality, risks of gay sex, supporting gay porn stars, being on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s anti-gay hate group list, and much more.

Fischer: “The Southern Poverty Law Center belongs on its own list [of hate groups]…for peddling falsehoods about homosexuality”

“We’re the ones telling the truth about the link between homosexuality and pedophilia.”

“Active participation in the homosexual lifestyle will deprive a male of anywhere between 8 and 20 years of his life expectancy”

“There is ‘no such thing as a monogamous homosexual relationship’”

But wait, there’s more…

Fischer: “The rectal wall is one cell thick”

“We need to take our cue from gay porn actors”

“Those homosexual activists that are so intent on normalizing homosexual behavior…they must be harboring some deep seated longing to be straight”

“…homosexual activists must be latently heterosexual”

“When the American people have been able to go to the polls and vote on the definition of marriage, we are 31 and 0″

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Maddow Interviews Uganda Bill Author

MaddowBahatix390 (Screengrab) | Advocate.comRachel Maddow interviewed David Bahati, the Ugandan parliament member who authored the pending bill that would impose the death penalty on gay people.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

SPECIAL TO JMG: Father Tony Interviews CT Lt. Governor Candidate Nancy Wyman

As the CFO of a state agency in Connecticut for many years, I attended monthly meetings of the State Bond Commission where I would present and explain projects needing funds to a panel including the Governor, the Attorney General, the State Treasurer and Nancy Wyman, the State Comptroller, or her openly gay Deputy, Mark Ojakian. I developed a respect for these two dedicated public servants who delivered many years of efficient financial management and who made diversity and safety for LGBT people in the workplace look natural and easy.

Now, Nancy Wyman is in the final week of her campaign to become Connecticut’s Lieutenant Governor as the running mate of Dan Malloy, the Democratic candidate for Connecticut Governor. I was delighted that she agreed to answer a few questions for the readers of JoeMyGod.

Has same-sex marriage changed Connecticut?

Same sex marriage has been legal in Connecticut for two years with no bad effects. And, because it is legal in Connecticut we have enjoyed an influx of visitors from other states coming here for celebrations. This has had a significant and positive economic impact on Connecticut. Some people in other states that are still debating same-sex marriage fear its repercussions. Any message for them?

I just have no idea what they are afraid of. It just makes sense to not stand in the way of letting people love and live as they prefer. Have you always been supportive of the concept of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights in general?

I’m proud to say that Dan Malloy and I were among the very earliest supporters of first civil unions and then same-sex marriage in Connecticut. Both of us didn’t need any convincing. We both testified in favor of civil unions and for same-sex marriage while many others hesitated. It’s how we believe things should be. I never dreamed I would officiate at a same-sex marriage but I have, and it’s wonderful.

As a straight married wife and mother, why were you always such a strong advocate for LGBT rights?

It might be due in part to the way I was brought up by my parents. Everyone was welcome in our home. I learned the importance of taking time to get to know people. Once you know somebody, you respect and value them. It might be due in part to the fact that my husband was passed over for promotions in a large Connecticut insurance company because he is Jewish. We had to fight for our rights just as you had to fight for your right to be out and comfortable as a state employee. I’ve been very happy to see the state government workplace improve over the years for LGBT employees. I’ve been lucky to have Mark Ojakian who was the highest ranking out state employee as my Deputy. I’m proud of Kevin Lembo who is also an out gay man and was in my agency and is now running for my previous position as State Comptroller.

We still need to do more outreach to young LGBT people who get bullied. We are just now realizing how extensive and serious a problem this is. It’s shocking and sad and we have much work to do to change this.

Any final message for the readers of JoeMyGod?

Yes. Please vote. No matter what state you live in.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Thomas Roberts Interviews Openly Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright