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: Last-minute gift ideas for Father’s Day

Pack your junk in some ‘junderwear’

If any of you are like me, then you still haven’t gotten your dad a Father’s Day gift because, hey, it’s not the last minute yet!

And if any of you last-minute shoppers are looking for just the right gift, Willie Geist over at MSNBC has some, well, interesting suggestions in the video below.

Personally, I kind of like the rain slicker that turns into a sleeping bag (with a net “tent” over the head area to keep the bugs away). But the “junderwear” will probably get the most attention. That’s underwear that looks like a pair of jean shorts (see the photo above).

But hey, stay away from the “Happy Hot Dog Man” thing-a-mabob. That’s just creepy — in so many, many ways.

—  admin

Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos refuses to resign, hurls new epithets

Dan Ramos

Daniel Graney, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, reports that Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos refused to apologize or resign during a press conference earlier today.

Instead, Ramos hurled new epithets and against referred to gay Democrats as “termites,” said Graney, who lives in San Antonio.

Graney said Ramos is holding a fundraiser tonight for the Democratic Party in downtown San Antonio, and members of Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio plan to protest outside.

From the Bexar County Democrats website, directly above a photo of Ramos:

Who We Are

Before all other things, we are a family of many different kinds of people. We come from all walks of life. We are home-makers, business people, factory workers, public servants, educators, soldiers, preachers, you name it – we’ve got it. We come from all skin colors, religions, cultures, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities. We don’t exclude. That is who we are!

UPDATE: Sam Sanchez of QSanAntonio.com was at the press conference and reports that rather than resigning, Ramos said gays are like “white termites who have infiltrated the party much like termites infiltrate your house.”

Ramos called Choco Meza, the woman who opposed him in last year’s election, a lesbian, and he said gays have infiltrated the party. Sanchez reports that Ramos called Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie a racist bastard and an idiot who is advised by gay people.

CORRECTION: As indicated in the comment below, Ramos did not hold the fundraiser. The event was sponsored by Proud Democrats of San Antonio, a group that has not yet condemned Ramos’ statements. The top of their website indicates that they promote equality, diversity and tolerance. I guess that would include Nazi termites.

—  David Taffet

President Obama appoints 1st male, 1st openly gay White House social secretary

Jeremy Bernard (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Jeremy Bernard, a native Texan formerly on staff at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, today became the first male AND the first openly gay person to serve as social secretary in the White House,according to this report in the Los Angeles Times.

Bernard worked in the financial industry in California and was a consultant for Obama’s 2008 campaign. He also served on the LGBT Advisory Committee for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office, the L.A. Police Department and the mayor’s office. And he’s done work on behalf of A.N.G.L.E — Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality — and the National Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

In appointing Bernard, President Obama said, “Jeremy shares our vision for the White House as the People’s House, one that celebrates our history and culture in dynamic and inclusive ways.”

—  admin

DPD officers won’t clean up horses’ poop

The horses may be pretty to look at, and their presence is a sign of spring, but not everyone is thrilled to see mounted DPD officers in the area of the Katy Trail this year.

Earlier today the proprietor of the 7-11 on Fitzhugh told me the horses make a mess in his parking lot, and the officers refuse to clean it up, leaving him to do their dirty work.

As you can see in the above photo, two mounted officers were hanging out in the 7-11 parking lot earlier today, and not surprisingly, one of the horses dropped a deuce in a parking space. I watched the officers leave without cleaning it up.

“If anyone else did that they’d get a ticket,” the 7-11 proprietor told me. “Just because they’re police doesn’t mean they should be able to do whatever they want.”

It’s unclear why the police horses aren’t equipped with bags that catch their poop, but they’re not. Budget cutbacks?

In any case, this is clearly horseshit! Just wait till some queen from one of the nearby gay bars steps in that stuff. Then you’re really gonna have a problem.

—  John Wright

Photo Of The Day – From Mount Tam

Taken from Marin County, California’s Mount Tamalpais, with Sutro Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. This above size doesn’t do this photo justice, so click over for a much larger version and an explanation of the photographer’s unusual technique.

Joe. My. God.

—  David Taffet

Photo: Cynthia Nixon And Christine Marinoni With Their Baby Boy

Cc
Cynthia Nixon and her Christine Marinoni welcomed Max Ellington Nixon-Marinoni to their family last week. A picture of the happy family has now been released. Looks like little Max definitely has Marinoni's red hair – and lots of it.


Towleroad News #gay

—  David Taffet

News: Elizabeth Taylor, Photo Awards, Leonardo Dicaprio, London

 road Elizabeth Taylor hospitalized after suffering symptoms from congestive heart failure.

Time  road Time magazine cover photo awarded "World Press Photo of the Year": "The woman it depicts is Bibi Aisha, who was 18 when she left her husband, a Taliban fighter, over claims of domestic abuse. In an act of retribution, the Taliban allowed him to cut off her ears and nose. Aisha's husband abandoned her after the assault; American soldiers and aid workers later rescued her and transported her to the United States–where she now lives–for reconstructive surgery."

 road Tom Cruise to star in the Hollywood version of Rock of Ages.

 road Moby Dick ship discovered in the Pacific Ocean.

 road Lowell, Massachusetts man wakes up to find his door covered with numerous anti-gay slurs.

 road Contestant on UK reality show admits to doing gay porn.

 road Scientists find that "Lucy" walked on two feet.

 road Disturbing rise in racist and anti-gay hate crimes in London.

Leo  road Leonardo Dicaprio suits up as J. Edgar Hoover in LA.

 road Get ready for a Wonder Woman-themed brand of cosmetics from MAC.

 road Things just keep getting worse for Borders bookstores.

 road Nashville mayor says he will sign anti-discrimination legislation for gays and lesbians: "Nashville is known as a welcoming and friendly city and as a city that doesn't tolerate discrimination."

 road Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" is the fastest selling single in iTunes history.

 road Andrew Garfield keeps getting more and more acting gigs.

 road Rhode Island Republican House Minority Leader Robert Watson under fire for comments he made during an event at the Chamber of Commerce: "if you are a Guatemalan gay man who likes to gamble and smokes marijuana."

 road New spanish-language radio drama "Bienvenidos a Casa" focuses on gay Latino teen.


Towleroad News #gay

—  David Taffet

Photo exclusive: On the field at the Super Bowl


We had an inside man working for us at the Super Bowl on Sunday, and he was able to get some up-close-and-personal pix from the field during the half-time show and even as the Green Bay Packers took the field in celebration of their victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here are some photos from the gridiron.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Anniversary: Brown-Monreal

BROWN-MONREAL | Kevin Brown and Leo Monreal will celebrate their 20th anniversary Monday, Feb. 7. The two met while students at the University of Texas at Arlington when both pledged the same fraternity and were also both members of a dance performance company. It was an immediate case of “opposites attract” that has continued to this day. Brown’s interests range from Sex and the City to jazzercize while Monreal’s interests range from bad “B” action and horror films to boxing. They share a love for animals and especially dogs and cats, as well as for movies, game nights, traveling and live theater. They also love spoiling their eight nieces and nephews and their five “fur children” — four dogs and one cat. Brown is an interior designer and Monreal is a police officer. (Photo by Tim Scheer)

—  John Wright