Ellis County Observer publisher Joey Dauben finally gets a court-appointed attorney

Joey Dauben

Joey Dauben, the publisher of the now-defunct Ellis County Observer, finally got to see a court-appointed lawyer this week to help him fight the three felony counts of child sexual abuse that have kept him in the Navarro County Jail without legal advice for almost two months now.

Edward Jendrzey, whose office is in Waxahachie in Ellis County, received the court-ordered appointment Thursday, Feb. 16. Jendrzey accepted the case after Steve Keathley, a Corsicana attorney whose wife is the president of the Navarro County Bar Association, declined an appointment by District Court Judge James Lagomarsino to represent the journalist.

In a telephone interview today, Jendrzey said, “Yes, he knows I’m representing him,” when asked whether he had met with his new client, who reached out for help from the media this week in a handwritten letter from jail. When a defendant declares himself to be indigent and asks for a court-appointed attorney, that is supposed to occur within 72 hours. In the letter, Dauben also again claimed he is innocent of the charges.

Jendrzey said his first step in Dauben’s representation will be to conduct an independent investigation of the case to learn the circumstances and to attempt to get Dauben’s $200,000 bond set by Lagomarsino lowered. “I’ll be meeting with the prosecutor about that,” Jendrzey said. Dauben’s family and friends have been unable to raise the 10 percent (or $20,000) payment bond agencies typically charge to get a defendant released from jail.

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“Head Figure Head” more about journalism than about Gov. Rick Perry’s sex life

Head Figure Head, the new e-book from Glen Maxey, details the author’s arduous and frustrating six-month effort to investigate rumors of Gov. Rick Perry’s gay sex life. Maxey served as executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas (now Equality Texas) during Perry’s tenure as a state representative, later serving for 12 years as a state representative, spanning Perry’s time as agricultural commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor. Of all the people who’ve attempted to look into the rumors of Perry’s trysts with men, Maxey is perhaps best positioned to get to the truth, and takes great pains to ensure we are aware of that fact.

The book is the narrative of Maxey’s research, assisted by a journalist from a national media outlet. Like almost every character in the book other than Maxey and Perry himself, “the Journalist” is referred to only as a pseudonym. Maxey and the Journalist begin their search for proof in June 2011 as rumors of Perry’s impending presidential bid are widely circulating. Immediately the pair find that almost every gay man in Austin has a friend who has a friend who claims to have slept with Perry. For the next three months they track those leads and come excruciatingly close to breaking the story.

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Victory in HCC trans discrimination case (sort of)

As previously reported by our friends over at the Dallas Voice, in September a Houston Community College teacher, Donny Leveston, led an in-class conversation about “Taboo: Incest and Homoeroticism” in which transgender people were referred to as “freaks” and “weirdos.” In an official response from the HCC Office of Institutional Equality the school admitted that the instructor acted insensitively and failed to show proper concern for a transgender student in the class who later withdrew from the school over the incident. Despite this, HCC found that Leveston did not violate the school’s policy against Discrimination and Harassment and will not be disciplined or required to attend training on transgender issues.

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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

Is DMN trying to intimidate gay couple into dropping their discrimination complaint?

Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

Looks like The Dallas Morning News is going to considerable lengths to defend its ban on same-sex wedding announcements.

Mark Reed-Walkup, who’s filed a discrimination complaint against the newspaper for refusing to publish his paid same-sex wedding ad, sent over a copy of the legal response he received via certified letter last week from the DMN’s attorneys, Jackson Walker LLP. (Download a copy of the the legal document here and the letter here.)

In the DMN’s response, or “Original Answer to Complainant Mark Reed-Walkup’s Original Complaint,” Paul Watler of Jackson Walker LLP argues that wedding announcements don’t qualify as a public accommodation under the city of Dallas’ ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Watler also argues that Reed-Walkup and his husband, Dante Walkup, aren’t legally married in Texas, and that any effort by the city to prosecute The DMN would violate the newspaper’s First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of the press.

Reed-Walkup said he was shocked to receive the letter.

“My first reaction was, I thought we were getting sued,” Reed-Walkup said. “I thought it was very intimidating that we would receive a response from the law firm, and that they were not following the process set up by the Fair Housing Office.

“The maximum fine, worst-case scenario, if this did get prosecuted, is only $500,” Reed-Walkup said, adding that the newspaper likely has already spent more than that in attorney’s fees. “It’s not like a lawsuit where we’re trying to go after them to recover financially for the discrimination we feel we’ve experienced. It’s just trying to get them to the table. The whole spirit of the public accommodations law is to try to work it out between the two parties without getting attorneys involved.”

—  John Wright

Minnesota School District ‘Investigation’ Says Bullying Not Responsible For Suicides

The Anoka-Hennepin School District, Minnesota's largest school district, has seen six students take their lives over the past year and a half. One of them was 15-year-old Justin Aaberg who, according to his friends, took his life after being bullied in school. The school district has recently completed an "investigation" into teenage bullying and concluded that bullying was not responsible for any of the suicides in their district.

JustinSaid Superintendent Dennis Carlson in an official statement: "As we all try to heal from the pain of these deaths, the continuation of inaccurate information is not helpful," Carlson said in his message. "Once again, we have no evidence that bullying played a role in any of our student deaths."

As Minnesota Public Radio points out, "District officials didn't conduct a formal investigation into the student suicides, but to figure out why six students took their own lives, they had a series of conversations among district officials, as well as with parents and others who knew the students."

Justin's mother thinks the school's so-called investigation is a total crock.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, "The district's conclusion doesn't sit well with Tammy Aaberg. Her son Justin, who was gay, killed himself this past summer. She said she can't say for sure that an act of bullying caused Justin to hang himself. 'I don't know what the last thing was to drove him over the edge,' she said. 'I don't have proof of his last day.'"

"But Aaberg said that's less important than the fact that she's knows Justin was bullied and the district, she feels, isn't an inviting place for some students. 'So many kids have come to me on Facebook that aren't even in the district anymore that have dropped out or are in alternative schools — that have been bullied and they didn't do anything,' she said."

"Since her son's death, Aaberg has pushed the district for policies she says would make schools more welcoming for all students. The claim that bullying didn't cause any of the suicides was also disputed this week by a teen who told school board members that his friend, one of the suicide victims, killed herself because she'd been bullied so much. District officials are now looking into that claim."

In 2009, two Anoka-Hennepin School District teachers were ordered to go on leave after harrassing a gay teenager.


Towleroad News #gay

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Gates caves to religious right, orders investigation of DADT Study leak

Let’s hope this isn’t a lesson about the Pentagon’s backbone when it’s up against foreign theocrats.

Wednesday night, we learned that the Pentagon DADT study showed “minimal” impact from ending the ban on open service.

The domestic theocrats, who over the past year or so seem to have choreographed a number of very anti-gay leaks from the Pentagon, went apoplectic. Yesterday, the Family Research Council asked for an investigation of that leak about the Pentagon’s DADT study:

So Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’s supporters shouldn’t be too happy about the leak.

And Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, isn’t. Today he suggested the leak “gravely undermine[s]” the Comprehensive Review Working Group’s study and asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Defense Department’s inspector general to investigate.

Apparently, FRC holds great sway over the Pentagon, because, today, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell announced that there will indeed be an investigation:

“For nearly nine months the Working Group has operated in strict accordance to that mandate. Anonymous sources now risk undermining the integrity of this process.

“The Secretary strongly condemns the unauthorized release of information related to this report and has directed an investigation to establish who communicated with the Washington Post or any other news organization without authorization and in violation of Department policy and his specific instruction.

“The full report will be made public for all to review early next month. Until then, no one at the Pentagon will comment on its contents.”

Earlier today, by press release, HRC demanded that the Pentagon release the DADT study ASAP. Based on this statement, that ain’t happening. Not even close.

On the other hand, FRC demands an investigation and it happens, pronto. Shows who has influence, huh?

Who is running this administration anyway?




AMERICAblog Gay

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Crybaby Tony Perkins Demands Investigation Into Leaked DADT Survey

“We have criticized this study from the outset because the CRWG was forbidden to explore the central question before the country-not how to implement a repeal of the current law, but whether doing so is in the best interest of the armed forces. The surveys of servicemembers and their spouses which were conducted as part of this process shared the same flaw, since they never asked, ‘Do you believe the current law should be overturned?’

“Despite this critical flaw, Secretary Gates had at least pledged that the effort would be ‘carried out in a professional, thorough and dispassionate manner.’ That effort is gravely undermined by leaks to the media which are unprofessional, selective and blatantly biased. I urge Secretary Gates to have the DOD Inspector General launch an immediate investigation into the source of these leaks, which have seriously damaged the credibility of the CRWG process.” – Family Research Council douchebag crybaby Tony Perkins, saying it’s “laughable” that the leaking party wouldn’t have a pro-gay bias.

Joe. My. God.

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NBC report: No excessive force used by FWPD in Rainbow Lounge raid

KXAS Channel 5, the local NBC affiliate, has posted a story on its Web site, citing unnamed Fort Worth city officials, saying that the Fort Worth Police Department’s investigation into the June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge found that officers did not use excessive force that night.

The sources also said that no officers will be fired over the incident although at least one may face some sort of disciplinary action.

Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead has scheduled a press conference to announce the results of the investigation tomorrow (Thursday) at 10 a.m. at the Rainbow Lounge.

TABC will also be releasing the findings in its investigation into its agents’ possible use of excessive force tomorrow morning.

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FWPD press conference still on

We have had a couple folks contact us here at the Voice this morning saying that they had heard 1) that Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead’s press conference at 10 a.m. Thursday (tomorrow) at Rainbow Lounge — to announce the results of his department’s investigation into the Rainbow Lounge raid — has been canceled; and that 2) the actual report will not be released to the public.

I called the FWPD to check and they tell me the press conference is still on. As for whether Chief Halstead will just summarize the report’s findings or release the full report publicly, I don’t know yet.

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