WATCH: Male cheerleader at TX high school kicked off squad, suspended over gay kiss

A male cheerleader at Alice High School in South Texas has been kicked off the squad and suspended from school for kissing another male student. The 17-year-old senior said the kiss was caught on a surveillance camera in the high school’s band hall, leading him to believe he was being monitored because of his sexual orientation. KRISTV.com in Corpus Christi reports:

The young man spent countless hours practicing every day for years to make the varsity cheer squad, and he had it all taken away from him in an instant.

Perhaps most surprising, is the way the student was caught. Not in person by a teacher, but by surveillance camera, leading the young man to believe he was being watched and targeted by school officials simply because of his sexual orientation.

“They never check cameras for anything unless something is stolen,” the young man said, asking not be identified. “We would be the ones getting caught because I’m sure we were the only ones, sexual orientation wise, being caught like that.”

The boy said public displays of affection are a relatively common occurrence at Alice HS, and he believes that the principal would not have targeted him had he been caught kissing a female student.

“In this school [kissing] is everywhere, if that were the case, suspending everyone for that, half the school would be suspended,” he said.

The student’s family says it was told the principal’s decision to suspend him for two days and kick him off the cheerleading squad is under review. If the student isn’t reinstated to the cheerleading squad, the family plans further action. According to the school’s website, Principal Lucy Munoz can be reached at 361-664-0126. District Superintendent Salvador Cavazos can be reached at drscavazos@aliceisd.net.

Watch the video report below.

—  John Wright

Anti-gay tirade ruins family’s State Fair outing

STATE UNFAIR | Dondi Morse, left, and Latisha Pennington say they attended the State Fair of Texas with their seven-year-old daughter and were verbally attacked by one vendor.

Haltom City lesbians say vendor’s verbal gay-bashing left their 7-year-old daughter in tears

UPDATE: Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America has sent an apology to the couple and the man in the booth who verbally attacked the couple has been removed from the fair.

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

When Latisha Pennington and Dondi Morse of Haltom City took their 7-year-old daughter to the Texas State Fair last weekend, they just wanted to have a fun day seeing the animals and trying out the fair’s famed array of fried treats.

But the women said this week their plans were ruined when one vendor verbally gay-bashed them in front of their daughter, leaving the little girl in tears and forcing the family to cut their outing short.

Although Pennington acknowledges that it isn’t hard to look at her and know she is a lesbian, that same isn’t true for her partner. And the two of them weren’t doing anything that day to attract attention; they weren’t holding hands and they certainly weren’t kissing or engaging in any kind of public displays of affection.

“We were just there to have fun with our daughter,” Pennington said, adding that PDAs “just aren’t our style.”

But that wasn’t enough to ward off some unwanted attention from the men at the booth for the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America.

Pennington said she and Morse and their daughter had just left one of the animal buildings when she heard a man call out to them. He said, she recalled,

“Hey, come here, come here. I got something for you. Got a couple of questions.”

The women noticed that the man was one of several at the booth that were giving away T-shirts and visors so they decided to go over and see what was being offered.

Each man in the booth was holding a sign that said, “What would you take for $1 million?” And the man who called them over did indeed have a question for them: “Would you take $1 million for your right eye?”

Pennington said she closed one eye, and the man asked her what she was doing. She told him she was just checking to see how well she could see out of one eye before she answered.

She said the man laughed at her answer. But his next question was no laughing matter: “Would you take $1 million for your soul?”

That’s when Morse jumped into the conversation, telling the man that if he was trying to engage them in a religious debate, they weren’t interested in going further.

Pennington said the man assured them he wasn’t interested in a religious debate either. But his next statement proved otherwise. That’s when the encounter began to turn ugly.

Pennington said he asked them, “What do you think will happen to your soul when you die?” Then he answered his own question with, “I know what’s going to happen to your soul. You’re going to hell for being a homosexual.”

The man then began “slinging biblical quotes at us” that supposedly condemn homosexuality. And as his harangue continued, their daughter began to cry, prompting the mothers to get her away from the booth and the man there as quickly as possible.

“We were at the booth no more than two minutes,” Pennington said, adding that the first thing to go through her mind was, “Oh, wow! Nothing like this has ever happened to us before.”

Besides just ruining their family outing with his remarks, Pennington said she questions what sort of family values the man who accosted them thought he was teaching her.

They tried to calm their daughter, Pennington said, but she continued to cry, asking Morse, “Mommy, why are you going to hell?”

The couple soon decided that they needed to leave the fair as quickly as possible to get their daughter to a safer environment where she could begin to calm down.

Pennington said they contacted state fair officials immediately to complain. On Wednesday, she said, they had heard back from State Fair Director Kelly Pound, who offered the family free tickets to return another day.

But Pennington said that while she appreciates the offer, she and Morse feel their daughter was too traumatized by the encounter to risk a return visit to the fair this year.

Pennington also said she doesn’t think just offering the family free tickets was an adequate response, and that she worries that other families could be attacked and other children traumatized by the man’s anti-gay tirades, even if they aren’t LGBT families.

Pennington suggested that fair officials should remove the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America and their booth from the fair. Sue Gooding, a spokeswoman for fair officials, said Thursday, Oct. 6, that while the group wouldn’t be asked to leave the fair, such behavior violates fair policy and will not be tolerated.

“That’s not the way we expect our vendors to act,” Gooding said, adding that vendors are expected to stay in their booths and should not call people over.

She said that Pound had gone to the booth already to have a discussion with the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship after the incident was reported, letting them know that “We’re not going to put up with this.”

Gooding said that while “the conversation went well,” Pound may decide to have a second conversation with the group before this weekend, when some 200 people have indicated on the “Gay Day at the State Fair” Facebook group page that they will be attending the fair on Saturday, Oct. 8.

Fairgoers who would like to visit the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association of America will find its booth outside the Pan Am Arena located behind the Cotton Bowl, on Nimitz Avenue.

………………………

The FGBMF

For more information on the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America,
go online to fgbmfamerica.com/wordpress. According to the website, the group’s
mission is:

“• To reach men everywhere for Jesus Christ, taking particular note that in many instances men can reach others of their same social, cultural or business interests more readily than anyone else.

“• To call men to God: to help men become born again, baptized in the Holy Spirit, operate in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and take the Good News to the nations.

“• To mentor young men who have never had positive male role models by being a spiritual father to them.

“• To provide a basis of fellowship among all men everywhere: by creating a fellowship not directly associated with any specific church, but cooperating with all denominations and inspiring our members to be active in their respective churches.

“• To bring about a greater measure of unity and harmony in the Body of Christ; where members are united in a common effort to spread the Good News and to be in full fellowship and submission to the true Head of the church . . . the Lord Jesus Christ.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  John Wright

Bullying from a different source?

Student at arts magnet school says she was bullied by a teacher; advocates say policy dealing with faculty behavior needs changes

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Delaney Hillan

Delaney Hillan kissed her girlfriend in the hall at school, and that’s when the trouble started.

Hillan, who came out during her junior year in high school, is now a senior at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. She said she didn’t expect to have problems being gay at the magnet school, but, she added, at least one teacher had problems with it.

“A teacher yelled at us [when I kissed my girlfriend] and said she didn’t want to see any of this again,” Hillan said, adding that the teacher threatened to report the incident.

Hillan said she understood that official school policy was no public displays of affection in school. But she said the kiss was more a “bye, see you later” kiss than making out in the hall. It was much less than what goes on regularly between heterosexual couples in school, she said.
And she wasn’t the only student to ever kiss her girlfriend in the school.

“It’s Booker T!” she said, the school many LGBT students choose to attend because it’s considered a safe place to go to school.
But the teacher persisted.

A few days later, Hillan said she was walking down the hall and the same teacher was standing outside her classroom. She stopped Hillan as she was passing to again admonish her.

Hillan said the teacher told her, “I want you to know I’m very disappointed in your behavior this year. I don’t appreciate your being so flagrant about it. Do you understand what I’m saying to you?”

Hillan’s mother picked her up from school that day, and when she got in the car, she said, she began to cry.

“I never felt so dehumanized,” Hillan said.

With her mother’s support, Hillan spoke to the principal who said she would talk to the teacher.

“Ever since then, she’s been nice to me,” Hillan said.

She spoke sympathetically of the teacher and said she understood the source of the bullying was the teacher’s religious background. But she doesn’t want another student to feel dehumanized in school again.

“Booker T. Washington’s a place where you are accepted,” she said. “The rules and policies at the school are accepting of all.”

Hillan said school is a place of trust and not somewhere a student should ever feel attacked.

This year, Hillan is president of her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. She has demonstrated with QueerLiberaction and she wanted to speak up for other students, especially those in less-safe environments.

“Students are pushed, yelled at and spit on,” she said. “Even if they’re not openly gay, but others think they are, they’re isolated. It’s hard to make friends when you have that label put on you.”

Kristine Vowels has worked on LGBT issues from within Dallas Independent School District for several years. She told Hillan that the DISD board was holding an open hearing about a new, inclusive anti-bullying policy and that she could tell her story to the public.

Hillan said speaking to the board in front of the packed room at the DISD meeting didn’t bother her.

“Maybe because I’m a theater major,” she said, “but I wanted to get across what was important.”

“Why would you go to a place you were scared of?” Hillan said.

Andy Moreno

Resource Center Dallas spokesman Rafael McDonnell said that the recently approved anti-bullying policy goes a long way to protect students throughout the school district.

But, he noted, the policy adopted addresses students, not faculty and staff. He said that the employee manual needs to reflect new policies in the student handbook.

McDonnell also said that training must be implemented to make sure faculty and staff understand what constitutes bullying against LGBT students and what they must do to stop it.

The anti-bullying policy includes gender identity and expression. The harassment policy already included sexual orientation and now must be updated similarly, McDonnell said.

That policy was written in the mid-1990s with the assistance of Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. However, protected groups should be consistent across different areas of conduct, McDonnell said.

He said that there must be a safe way for students to report bullying. “It’s harder to report your teacher,” McDonnell said.

Hillan had a receptive principal who didn’t hesitate to take action. But in the case of transgender student Andy Moreno at North Dallas High School, the bullying allegedly came from her principal.

Moreno wanted to run for homecoming queen but was stopped by the school’s new principal. But rather than just stopping her bid, Moreno thought the principal’s words crossed over into bullying.

The principal allegedly called Moreno an “it, or whatever you are” and threatened to close the school’s GSA in retaliation for Moreno speaking to Dallas Voice.

DISD trustee Lew Blackburn has said that the district needs a district-wide policy on homecoming elections.

Moreno believed that if a teacher were speaking to her inappropriately, she could have turned to the principal, but in her case there was nowhere to turn other than the press.

Hillan thinks the solution is simpler than that. Any bullying by faculty and staff needs to stop.

“Students shouldn’t be afraid to go to school,” Hillan said. “And I shouldn’t be afraid of my teachers.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens