H4PJ calls on Dallas City Council to support LGBT-inclusive bullying policy for DISD

The Rev. Michael Piazza

The Rev. Michael Piazza, executive director of Hope for Peace and Justice, is slated to address the Dallas City Council this morning and ask the council to pass a resolution encouraging the Dallas Independent School District “to do everything in their power to prevent bullying,” according to David Plunkett, a spokesman for H4PJ.

In the wake of last month’s gay teen suicide crisis, H4PJ has been circulating a petition, which has more than 1,000 signatures, calling for DISD to adopt fully inclusive anti-bullying guidelines that provide specific protections for LGBT students. DISD’s board of trustees is  considering a new anti-bullying policy, but as currently written, the proposed policy doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity. DISD trustee Lew Blackburn told Dallas Voice this week he plans to introduce a substitute policy that does include sexual orientation and gender identity. Blackburn, along with LGBT advocates, have urged people in the community to contact the other trustees and urge them to support Blackburn’s proposal. DISD’s new anti-bullying policy could be up for a final vote as early as next week.

Courtesy of Plunkett, here’s the text of Piazza’s remarks:

I am here to present a petition signed by 1,000 people requesting that the Dallas City Council pass a resolution encouraging the Dallas Independent School District to do everything in their power to prevent the bullying that has led to far too many suicides of young people. Just down I-45, 13-year-old Asher Brown took his life in September. Then, earlier this month, just north on I-35 in Norman, Oklahoma, 19-year-old Zach Herrington took his life following a toxic debate at a city council meeting.  We are asking you to encourage DISD to ensure the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children.

I could speak to you today as someone who was a pastor in this city for 22 years at the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender church. I could speak to you as the President of Hope for Peace & Justice whose petitions I present. However, I’d like to use my two minutes to appeal to you as a parent. I have two teenage girls. One is a junior at the School for the Talented and Gifted, and the other is a senior at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

My partner and I might have sent our daughters to private schools, but it was very important to us that they attend public schools where most of the children in this city receive their education. It hasn’t always been easy for them.

My oldest daughter was in Harry Stone Middle School when the state of Texas passed a constitutional amendment that denied marriage equality to her parents. Next month my partner and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary. So, you can imagine my daughter’s surprise when her language arts teacher told her students, during class, to be sure their parents voted in favor of the constitutional amendment because, and I quote, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Fortunately, my daughter was secure enough to raise her hand and ask, “Excuse me Mrs. Smith, but then who did create Adam and Steve?”

Her teacher said, “I guess you must know some of those people,” to which Jerica replied, “Only just about everyone in my life who loves me.”

Jerica knew how to handle herself, but imagine for just a moment if you had been a small boy struggling with your sexuality and heard that teacher’s words. Imagine if you had been a child who had been abused at home and so filled with rage that you were looking for someone to bully. That DISD teacher, at one of our best magnet schools, just gave you all the justification you needed.

As a father, I beg you. Make a statement that this is not who we are in Dallas and that we know our children are not our own, but they are ALL — gay, lesbian, transgender or heterosexual — children of God. Thank you .

—  John Wright

Just in time for Texas-OU weekend, Norman passes resolution marking LGBT history month

The other day we mentioned that Equality Texas and The Equality Network of Oklahoma are hosting a joint fundraiser/watch party at the Brick in Dallas during Saturday’s Texas-Oklahoma football game. But regardless of whether the Sooners prevail on the gridiron, it looks like the Equality Network will be celebrating a victory (and no, we’re not referring to Thursday night’s dramatic comeback win by Oklahoma State over Texas A&M). On Tuesday, the city council in Norman, which is home to OU, voted 7-1 to declare October as GLBT history month in the city. It may not sound like a very big deal, but in a state that’s home to politicians like Sally Kern, it’s progress. According to The Oklahoman, one councilmember said he received messages on his answering machine that “threatened [his] livelihood” if he supported the proposal. And about 100 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, with about half supporting the proposal and half opposing it. Here’s a report from The Equality Network:

Norman City Council Makes Historic Vote

September 30, 2010 – Norman, Oklahoma – On Tuesday evening, after four hours of impassioned debate, the Norman City Council voted 7 to 1 to declare October LGBT history month.  The vote makes Norman the first municipality in the state to issue an offical proclamation honoring the historic contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

The vigorous discussion included citizens with wildly divergent opinions on LGBT equality.  When faced with the final vote, many councilors attested to the galvanizing effect that being bombarded by sometimes vitriolic anti-gay sentiment had upon them.  Doug Cubberley, the councilor representing Ward 7, expressed concern that while his district was evenly split on whether or not to support the declaration, he felt morally compelled to support it.  His colleague from Ward 6, James Griffith, asserted that while he had been intitially inclined to oppose the resolution, constituent feedback changed his mind.  Griffith admitted that he had not known that an Oklahoma citizen can still be legally fired from his or her job or evicted from a rented property solely on the basis of sexual orientation.  Mayor Cindy Rosenthal added her strong support for the LGBT History Month proclamation.  Councilor Dan Quinn, representing Ward 8, cast the lone dissenting vote.

“We are very inspired by tonight’s overwhelming recognition of the invaluable and vibrant role of LGBT people in our nation’s history.  With this vote, the Norman City Council honors that rich legacy and makes a powerful statement about inclusivity and fairness in our state.”  asserted Kathy L. Williams, Ph.D., president of The Equality Network.

A full text of the LGBT History Month proclamation can be found here.

—  John Wright