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

‘Hairspray’ at Casa Manana tonight

What ozone layer?

Whether you’ve seen it onstage or at the movies (or both!), Hairspray is whole lot of delightful fun. Mixing social messages with drag characters is one thing, but to brighten it up with fun-loving tunes that feel like they popped right out of old-time radio is what makes the story work so well. Come on. How many times have we wished we could wake up singing “Good Morning, Baltimore” and feel that good about the day? Anybody? Just us?

Check out our piece on actor David Coffee who plays Edna Turnblad.

—  Rich Lopez

In wake of tax cut compromise, Howard Dean asks ‘what about DADT?’

Good point from Howard Dean in the last graf of this excerpt, below. What about DADT? Why wasn’t it included int his tax cut deal? The GOP got their top priority, why didn’t we include more of our priorities in this deal? I think it’s going to be very difficult to get anything else passed in the Senate, now that the GOP has already been given what they want. Once you trade away your biggest chit, you’re kind of SOL.

Sam Stein at Huff Post:

Obama’s decision to craft a deal with Republicans on the Bush tax cuts … has created deep reservoirs of distrust with the president’s ability to handle high-stakes negotiations and has compelled even former staffers to level blunt criticisms about the White House’s politics. “I think the president made a huge mistake in supporting any extension of tax cuts,” said Steve Hildebrand, the deputy national director of Obama’s presidential campaign and a strategist who has long grown sour on Washington. “We can’t afford it as a country, and we should recognize that. We need his leadership and bipartisan congressional leadership on it. And the whole idea of negotiating with Republicans who won’t negotiate in good faith, it is not the direction the president should be taking.” [...]

“We clearly have to deal with the deficit; it is probably the biggest problem facing the country,” said former DNC header Howard Dean. “But you can’t deal with the deficit from a political point of view if you say to Democrats, we are going to cut Social Security and Medicare and, by the way, give tax cuts to those who make a million dollars a year.”

Antipathy, however, was saved as much for the process of securing the final tax cut package as for the substance of the package itself. Suggesting that the deal could die in the House, Dean echoed a question other Democrats offered in the hours after Obama’s announcement: Was enough secured in return?

“I’m not so sure you can get the House to agree to this in conference committee,” he said. “And what about the president’s other priorities: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, START, DREAM Act? I mean, do we not get anything for the 0 billion?”




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

In wake of anti-lgbt youth climate, Focus on the Family attacks GLSEN

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

Candi Cushman of Focus on the Family just released a critique of GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network)'s recent school climate report.

GLSEN's report found that in 2009:

 . . . 7,261 middle and high school students found that at school nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. Nearly a third of LGBT students skipped at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.

Naturally, Cushman and Focus on the Family disputes this. To make a long story short, Cushman is claiming that GLSEN's report is inaccurate because it:

 . . . lists four authors—all of whom are employed by GLSEN, including Emily A. Greytak, who became involved with a GLSEN chapter 12 years ago and has worked for the organization since 2006; Elizabeth M. Diaz, who, as a GLSEN employee since 2004, conducts workshops opposing abstinence education; and GLSEN employee Mark J. Bartkiewicz, whose “research interests include LGBT students’ access to comprehensive sexual health education and the effects of inclusive LGBT curricula.”

Hardly what you’d call an objective research team—and then there’s the little fact that they are paid by an organization that has openly acknowledged its goal of getting gay, lesbian and transgender themes “fully integrated into curricula across a variety of subject areas and grade levels.”

Cushman is pushing the same old lie that GLSEN is trying to "introduce homosexual themes" into schools in order to "indoctrinate" children.

 

It's the standard lie she and Focus on the Family pushes and it's nothing new.

But the sad thing is that this attack is coming in a climate in which we have seen a recent outbreak of bullying and suicides of young lgbts including:

An 11-year-old sixth grader in Ohio had his arm broken by teenagers who called him a queer and a sissy because he wanted to be a cheerleader.

There's the suicide, by hanging, of 13-year-old Seth Walsh, in California.

The suicide, by means of his father's Beretta, of 13-year-old Asher Brown, in Texas.

and finally, the suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, which needs no introduction because we know the story.

 In the long run, it doesn't matter who backed the GLSEN report or who created it.

Because based on recent events, the report has a degree of accuracy.

If Cushman or Focus on the Family really cared about the children, they would realize this instead of releasing a ridiculous critique that does nothing but demonstrate how uncaring and clueless they really are.

Related posts:

Focus on the Family's attack on anti-bullying efforts take centerstage on AC 360

Focus on the Family cites George Rekers in fighting anti-bullying efforts

The Problems With Focus On The Family’s And The Alliance Defense Fund’s Model Anti-Bullying Policy

AFA Highlights/Recycles FOTF Campaign Against Perceived Gay Public School Agenda
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Bishop Long Stepping Down In Wake Of Fourth Lawsuit?

Eddielong

Homophobic Pastor Eddie Long's problems grow by the day.

Various sites, including AOL's Black Voices, are reporting that Long, who has already been accused of severely inappropriate contact with three male congregants, will be stepping down from the pulpit at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church after Sunday's sermon.

The news comes after a fourth young man leveled still more allegations against Long. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution provides the details of this latest lawsuit.

"Spencer LeGrande, named in a civil lawsuit filed Friday, claims he
was 17 the first time the two had a sexual relationship while
vacationing in Nairobi, Kenya.

LeGrande, of Charlotte, N.C., alleges that the New Birth Missionary
Baptist Church pastor  gave him an Ambien, a popular prescription sleep
aid, followed by a "prolonged hug," kissing and rubbing, according to
the suit.

The suit claims the two shared a bed for the remainder of their trip."

Long and his attorneys continue to deny the numerous claims, and his defense today declared, "We believe that it is unfortunate the young men have chosen to take this course of action. The defense team will review the complaints and respond accordingly at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum."

Even if he's not stepping down, this weekend won't be very relaxing for Long.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright